Trump Dismisses Controversy Surrounding ‘Highly Partisan’ Whistleblower Complaint

By Janita Kan
Janita Kan
Janita Kan
Janita Kan is a reporter based in New York covering the Justice Department, courts, and First Amendment.
September 20, 2019 Updated: September 20, 2019

President Donald Trump has issued a fresh denial on a developing controversy surrounding an unverified conversation with a foreign leader that reportedly prompted a whistleblower complaint, suggesting that it was another plan by his opponents to smear him.

“The Radical Left Democrats and their Fake News Media partners, headed up again by Little Adam Schiff, and batting Zero for 21 against me, are at it again!” Trump wrote on Twitter on Sept. 20.

“They think I may have had a “dicey” conversation with a certain foreign leader based on a “highly partisan” whistleblowers statement. Strange that with so many other people hearing or knowing of the perfectly fine and respectful conversation, that they would not have also come forward,” he continued.

“Do you know the reason why they did not? Because there was nothing said wrong, it was pitch perfect!” he added.

Trump’s comments come after The Washington Post and The New York Times reported new details about an unspecified “promise” the president made to a foreign leader that prompted an unidentified official within the intelligence community to file a whistleblower complaint. Reports about the conversation have not been officially verified and the White House has not yet offered any comments.

The two newspapers reported late on Sept. 19 that the conversation was related to Ukraine. Both media outlets based their reports on two anonymous sources.

On the same evening, Trump’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, appeared on CNN and was asked by host Chris Cuomo whether the lawyer had asked for an investigation into Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden. Biden has been under scrutiny in the past few months for his role in pressuring the Ukrainian government to fire a top prosecutor who was leading a corruption investigation into a Ukrainian gas company where Biden’s son, Hunter, was a board member.

During the interview, Giuliani first denied then said he did ask Ukraine to look into Joe Biden, explaining that he wanted to figure out how and why the prosecutor who was to look into Biden dropped the case.

Later in the evening, Giuliani wrote on Twitter that, “A President telling a Pres-elect of a well known corrupt country he better investigate corruption that affects US is doing his job. Maybe if Obama did that the Biden Family wouldn’t have bilked millions from Ukraine and billions from China; being covered up by a Corrupt Media.”

While speaking to reporters at the White House during his meeting with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Trump described the reports as “ridiculous” while blaming them on a “partisan whistleblower.” He also reiterated that his conversations with world leaders are “always appropriate, at the highest level always appropriate.”

Moreover, he did not confirm whether the conversation that is at the center of the controversy involved a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25, but did say that “someone ought to look into Joe Biden.”

On Sept. 19, Trump called the story “fake news” while denying accusations that he would “say something inappropriate with a foreign leader.”

“Another Fake News story out there—It never ends! Virtually anytime I speak on the phone to a foreign leader, I understand that there may be many people listening from various U.S. agencies, not to mention those from the other country itself. No problem!” Trump wrote on Twitter Sept. 19.

“Knowing all of this, is anybody dumb enough to believe that I would say something inappropriate with a foreign leader while on such a potentially ‘heavily populated’ call. I would only do what is right anyway, and only do good for the USA!” he said.

The handling of the complaint is currently fueling a stand-off between acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Joseph Maguire and the House Intelligence Committee. Maguire has refused to share details about the complaint, saying that it involves confidentially and potentially privileged communications by persons outside the intelligence community.

Meanwhile, the committee’s chairman Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) has repeatedly asked Maguire to hand over the complaint, leading him to subpoena Maguire on Sept. 13 to produce the complaint. Schiff said that Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson determined the complaint was “credible and urgent” and “should be transmitted to Congress.”

On Sept. 18, the two sides appear to have reached a compromise, with Schiff announcing that Maguire had agreed to testify publicly on Sept. 26.

During a closed-door meeting on Sept. 19 with members of the House Intelligence Committee and Atkinson, the inspector general did not disclose the substance of the complaint to lawmakers.

Janita Kan
Janita Kan
Janita Kan is a reporter based in New York covering the Justice Department, courts, and First Amendment.