Whistleblower alleges White House coverup
Many Senate Republicans said today that they haven’t read the whistleblower complaint yet. Others said the complaint doesn't change things and raises "more questions than answers."
Here's what they told reporters about the complaint:
- Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford and North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven each said they were in appropriations mark-ups and hadn’t yet read the full complaint.
- Indiana Sen. Mike Braun said he hadn’t read it either, adding that he didn’t know about the allegations to “lock down” information at the White House. Braun went on to say that he didn’t feel the complaint would change Republican’s views of impeachment, and said the Democrats had made a mistake starting an impeachment inquiry before knowing more about the complaint.
- Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander said he has not read the complaint. “I’m waiting for the intelligence committee to finish its work."
- Ohio Sen. Rob Portman said he said he’s been “running around” all day and hasn't read it and would not comment.
- Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton said “no comment” twice and boarded a senators-only elevator when asked if he was concerned the White House was locking down information.
- Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said “I’ll have a better idea of how credible he is later this afternoon" when asked if he is concerned about the strong allegations from a credible whistleblower.
- Florida Sen. Marco Rubio told reporters he has read the whistleblower’s complaint, and says he has “more questions than answers.”
- Idaho Sen. Jim Risch, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that there was “nothing there” when asked about the rough transcript of President Trump's call with the Ukrainian leader. On the whistleblower complaint, he said that he prefers to look at the primary document, meaning the rough transcript.
- South Dakota Sen. Mike Rounds said “they are using second-hand information right now. Let’s let the committee investigate it."
- Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst said she hasn't had time to read the whole complaint, saying, “I am going to have to dig into it."
President Trump called the person who gave the whistleblower information “close to a spy” and added the US handled spies differently "in the old days when we were smart with spies and treason," according to a report from The New York Times.
Trump reportedly made the comments this morning to a group of staff from the United States Mission to the United Nations.
“I want to know who’s the person who gave the whistleblower the information because that’s close to a spy,” Mr. Trump said, according to the New York Times. “You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart with spies and treason, right? We used to handle it a little differently than we do now.”
Trump's comments "stunned" many people listening, the Times reported. Others in the room laughed.
In the complaint, the whistleblower acknowledged he or she did not have first-hand knowledge of most of the events described.
Earlier today, The acting director of national intelligence just testified on Capitol Hill and said the President never asked for the identity of the whistleblower.
The acting spy chief, however, did not speak to the identity for the person who provided the whistleblower with information.
House Intel chair Rep. Adam Schiff told reporters today that the whistleblower complaint is an urgent matter that needs to be “thoroughly investigated now.”
He did not provide many details on timing but said Democrats will continue to work through the two-week congressional recess that starts next week.
“It’s hard to imagine a more serious set of allegations than those contained in the complaint,” Schiff said after the committee’s hearing with Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire. “At the end of the day, what is alleged in this whistleblower complaint goes to the very heart of the President’s oath of office."
Asked about potential witnesses for the committee to interview , Schiff told CNN he's “not going to get into specific investigative steps at this point.”
“We’re going to move as expeditiously as possible,” he told reporters. “We will be working to conduct this as quickly as possible.”
President Trump said that he watched “a little bit” of Congressional testimony with acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire today aboard Air Force One.
Maguire testified this morning before the House Intelligence Committee about a whistleblower complaint and his handling of the complaint.
What Maguire told lawmakers: Maguire said the whistleblower's complaint centered around a phone call between President Trump and a foreign leader — a kind of conversation that is "typically subject to executive privilege." That's why he didn't release it earlier.
Maguire also said he believes both the whistleblower who filed the complaint against President Trump and the inspector general who handled it "acted in good faith."
President Trump accused Democrats of "making up stories" because he said they know "they're going to lose the election."
"It's Adam Schiff and his crew making up stories," Trump said, referencing the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. The acting director of national intelligence just testified in front of the committee. (Read about the key moments here.)
Trump added: "They're going to lose the election, they know it, that's why they're doing it."
The President continued to rail against Democrats:
"What these guys are doing, Democrats are doing to this country is a disgrace, and it shouldn't be allowed. There should be a way of stopping it"
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he has not yet read the full whistleblower complaint but said that to the best of his knowledge, “each of the actions that were undertaken by State Department officials was entirely appropriate."
"To the best of my knowledge, from what I’ve seen so far, each of the actions that were undertaken by State Department officials was entirely appropriate, and consistent with the objective that we’ve had, certainly since this new government has come into office," he told reporters.
Pompeo continued: "We have tried to use this opportunity to create a better relationship between the United States and Ukraine to build on the opportunities to, tighten our relationship to help end corruption in Ukraine. This is what President Zelensky ran on."
Some context: The whistleblower complaint states that US officials were concerned with President Trump's private lawyer Rudy Giuliani and his contacts with Ukrainian officials. The whistleblower alleges the US officials believed Giuliani was a conduit for messages between the President and officials in Kyiv and that he was at the helm of a problematic "circumvention of national security decisionmaking processes."
Rep. Adam Schiff, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said there is a "number of potential crimes" when a president asks a for help in an election.
A whistleblower alleged that President Trump abused his official powers "to solicit interference" from Ukraine in the upcoming 2020 election. The whistleblower's complaint was released this morning.
"I think there are any number of potential crimes when a president is soliciting for an assistance again in another presidential election," Schiff said.
Rep. Adam Schiff, speaking to reporters moments after the House Intelligence Committee hearing, said the whistleblower complaint shows that "there were efforts made to conceal this scheme."
"It's hard to imagine a more serious set of allegations than those contained in the complaint," Schiff said.
Schiff, who chairs the committee, said he is concerned about the breakdown of the whistleblower system.
"We are profoundly concerned with the breakdown of this whistleblower system that has been manifested over the last month, that a whistleblower who was deemed credible, who had a complaint that was deemed urgent, that a complaint that had to come to Congress would be held in Congress, and would be withheld on the basis of advice given by the subject or subjects of that complaint," Schiff said.
He continued: "The conflict of interest is all too apparent, all too palpable. It is indeed a minor miracle that we got the complaint at all and that we got the transcript at all. At the end of the day."
Trump tweeted today that Rep. Adam Schiff's has "zero credibility."
Schiff was asked by reporters to respond to the tweet, he said, "I'm always flattered when I'm attacked by someone of the President's character."