The whistleblower who filed the complaint that has led to an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump contacted the House Intelligence Committee before raising concerns about alleged wrongdoing with the intelligence community inspector general, according to a spokesman for the Democratic chairman, Adam Schiff.
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“Like other whistleblowers have done before and since under Republican and Democratic-controlled Committees, the whistleblower contacted the Committee for guidance on how to report possible wrongdoing within the jurisdiction of the Intelligence Community,” Patrick Boland, the spokesman, wrote in a statement. “Consistent with the Committee’s longstanding procedures, Committee staff appropriately advised the whistleblower to contact an Inspector General and to seek legal counsel.”
(MORE: Trump urged Ukraine to work with Barr and Giuliani to probe Biden: Call transcript)
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House Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Rep. Adam Shiff (D-CA) and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) answer questions at the Capitol, Oct.2, 2019.
The New York Times first reported that Schiff “learned about the outlines” of the whistleblower’s concerns before the complaint was filed, after the soon-to-be whistleblower approached a committee aide with vague allegations of wrongdoing by Trump. The aide then shared some of that message with Schiff, according to the Times.
President Donald Trump listens as Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto addresses a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House, Oct. 2, 2019.
President Trump, asked about the report that surfaced shortly before a Wednesday afternoon news conference with Finland’s president, held up what he said was a copy and called it a “scandal.”
“Well, I think it’s a scandal that he knew before. I’d go a step further: I think he probably helped write it. Okay? That’s what the word is. And I think it’s — I give a lot of respect for the New York Times for putting it out,” Trump said.
“At no point did the Committee review or receive the complaint in advance,” Boland wrote in the statement. He declined to elaborate when asked what exactly Schiff knew about the account before the complaint was filed.
Trump has increasingly targeted Schiff, who is leading the impeachment inquiry centered on the president’s phone July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensk’y and the whistleblower’s concerns about Trump’s comments on the call, and White House officials’ efforts to restrict access to records of the conversation. On the call, Trump appeared to pressure Zelenskiy to contact Attorney General Bill Barr for help investigating former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, according to a record of the call released by the White House last week.
The White House counsel’s office and the Justice Department also were alerted to concerns over the call between Trump and Ukraine’s president more than a week before both were notified a whistleblower had filed a formal complaint with the intelligence community’s inspector general, several U.S. officials from two separate government agencies confirmed to ABC News.
In a statement following the release of the transcript Wednesday, DOJ spokesperson Kerri Kupec said Barr had first learned of the Ukraine call “when the Department of Justice learned of a potential referral,” but at the time there was no public reporting regarding the separate outreach from the intelligence official and the White House’s communications with the department.
Trump also accused Schiff of treason on Wednesday, citing his paraphrasing of the phone call transcript in a hearing with the acting director of national intelligence last week.
(MORE: ‘We’re not fooling around’ says House Democrat leading impeachment probe)
“They should look at him for treason because he is making up the words of the president of the United States. Not only the words but the meaning,” he said.
Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community inspector general, reviewed the allegations, and deemed the complaint “credible” and of urgent concern.
Mark Zaid, an attorney representing the whistleblower, said there was “no contact” between the legal team and Congress until nearly a month after the complaint was first submitted to the intelligence community inspector general’s office.