Impeachment pressure complicates trade picture
President Donald Trump called for the Democrat leading the House impeachment inquiry to be questioned for treason and demanded to meet the anonymous whistle-blower who lodged a complaint about the U.S. leader’s request that Ukraine investigates his political opponents.
The series of Twitter posts Sunday night is his latest attack on the whistle-blower who raised concern over his controversial July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy now at the heart of an impeachment inquiry, and they’re likely to prompt new questions about whether Trump is violating protections in place for government employees seeking to expose unethical behavior.
Trump went on to say he wants the identities of individuals who provided information cited in the whistle-blower report.
The whistle-blower is under federal protection out of fear for his or her safety, CBS News said, citing a letter it obtained. The person’s lawyers sent a letter to Joseph Maguire, the acting Director of National Intelligence, thanking him for activating “appropriate resources” to ensure their client’s safety -- and saying that “certain individuals” are offering a $50,000 bounty for the whistle-blower’s identity, CBS said.
The president further called for a treason inquiry into House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, saying the California Democrat had lied “in perhaps the most blatant and sinister manner” ever seen in the House of Representatives. That came after Trump called for Schiff to “immediately resign” after the California Democrat began a committee hearing with what he called a summary and what critics called an embellishment of Trump’s conversation with Zelenskiy.
Schiff said in an interview on ABC’s “This Week” that Congress expects to hear “very soon” from the whistle-blower. The timing will depend on how quickly the security-clearance process for his or her lawyers can be completed. “We’re moving forward with all speed,” he added.
The string of Sunday evening tweets was a continuation of Trump’s attacks on those who have criticized his behavior. In a meeting with diplomats in New York on Thursday, Trump described the controversy over the whistle-blower’s report as a “war” and equated the complaint to espionage.
“I want to know who’s the person, who’s the person who gave the whistle-blower the information? Because that’s close to a spy,” Trump said. “You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart? Right? The spies and treason, we used to handle it a little differently than we do now.”
Those remarks prompted condemnation from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. House Democrats, including Schiff, released a statement on Thursday warning Trump to stop “reprehensible witness intimidation.”
“We condemn the President’s attacks, and we invite our Republican counterparts to do the same because Congress must do all it can to protect this whistle-blower, and all whistle-blowers,” the lawmakers said. “Threats of violence from the leader of our country have a chilling effect on the entire whistle-blower process, with grave consequences for our democracy and national security.”
Mark Zaid, an attorney for the whistle-blower, said earlier Sunday that his legal team was continuing to work with congressional committees to coordinate a way for the whistle-blower to meet with congressional investigators. Zaid said protecting the whistle-blower’s identity was “paramount” but did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the president’s tweets.
Maguire told lawmakers in testimony earlier this week that the whistle-blower had acted properly in pursuing his complaint.