The CIA agent accusing President Donald Trump of a quid pro quo with Ukraine spoke to House intel chief Adam Schiff’s staff before filing his whistleblower complaint, sources say – and Trump believes the collusion goes deeper.
The “whistleblower” spoke to a House Intelligence Committee staffer about his concerns, gleaned from secondhand knowledge of a phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, that the president was abusing his power – and that staffer shared the information with Schiff – before the still-anonymous CIA officer filed his complaint, according to the New York Times, which cited Schiff’s spokesman and “current and former American officials” in a report published Wednesday.
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The Times’ report “shows that Schiff is a fraud,” the president told reporters during a White House press conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto Wednesday afternoon when he was asked about the story, calling the fact that the congressman, whom he dubbed “shifty Schiff,” knew about the complaint before it was even filed “a scandal.”
“I’d go a step further – I think he probably helped write” the complaint, Trump said. “He knew long before, and he helped write it too,” he continued more confidently. The president – who elsewhere in his remarks tried out his new “corrupt news” moniker for the mainstream media – nevertheless congratulated the Times on the scoop. “Maybe they’re getting better,” he mused.
Schiff’s foreknowledge of the complaint explains how he knew of its existence despite the Trump administration initially filing the document on a top-secret National Security Council computer. Nor was Schiff the only one to get a sneak preview of the allegations – the whistleblower first asked a colleague to share the information with the CIA’s top lawyer.
Trump insisted Schiff “helped” the CIA agent write up his suspicions, and the Times describes the whistleblower’s “original accusation” as “vague.” But Schiff’s spokesman insisted the congressman’s office followed normal procedures and did not meet with the whistleblower directly or even know his identity. At any rate, the complaint that was eventually submitted to the Inspector General was certainly not vague. Trump was accused of threatening to withhold military aid to Ukraine if Zelensky did not reopen a corruption probe into a natural gas company that employed Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden’s son (in a cushy, nepotistic $60,000/month job, no less) – and of dangling said quid-pro-quo no less than seven times.
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Transcripts of the call released last week showed no such quid pro quo, and Schiff instead read off a largely fictional “interpretation” of the call when questioning Trump’s director of national intelligence last week. Schiff later defended his imaginative wanderings as “parody,” but Trump has accused him of treason and called for him to resign.
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