President TrumpDonald TrumpJury in Jussie Smollett trial begins deliberations Pence says he'll 'evaluate' any requests from Jan. 6 panel Biden's drug overdose strategy pushes treatment for some, prison for others MORE on Thursday accused the White House officials who relayed information to the whistleblower at the center of the Ukraine controversy of being "close to a spy."
The president made the claim while speaking at a private event at the Intercontinental Hotel in New York just hours after the whistleblower's complaint was released to the public, according to a recording obtained by the Los Angeles Times. The New York Times confirmed Trump's comments, citing a person briefed on what took place.
Trump dismissed the charges in the complaint, arguing that the whistleblower didn't listen in on the July 25 phone call in which he allegedly pressured the leader of Ukraine to investigate 2020 presidential candidate Joe BidenJoe BidenPharma lobby eyes parliamentarian Demand for US workers reaches historic high Biden to award Medal of Honor to three soldiers who fought in Iraq, Afghanistan: report MORE and his son Hunter Biden over unsubstantiated allegations of corruption.
“Basically, that person never saw the report, never saw the call, he never saw the call — heard something and decided that he or she or whoever the hell they saw — they’re almost a spy,” Trump said, according to the L.A. Times.
“I want to know who’s the person, who’s the person who gave the whistleblower the information? Because that’s close to a spy,” he continued. “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.”
Bloomberg News also obtained video of the speech in which Trump can be seen railing against the whistleblower.
"That's close to a spy."— Bloomberg TicToc (@tictoc) September 27, 2019
WATCH: Trump demands to know who gave information to the whistle-blower in the #UkraineTranscript that has spurred the #Impeach45 drive. More @business: https://t.co/lmgTALLGsi pic.twitter.com/WTFeEX7K96
A declassified version of a whistleblower complaint focused on Trump's interactions with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was released earlier Thursday. The whistleblower, whose identity remains unknown, states in the complaint that the allegations about the July phone call were based on information provided by "multiple White House officials with direct knowledge."
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill.
The whistleblower says that they received information from several government officials that Trump was "using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign government in the 2020 U.S. election."
The complaint alleges that Trump's attorney Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiNunes retirement move seen as sign of power shift in GOP Rudy Giuliani becomes grandfather after son welcomes child Press: For Trump endorsement: The more sordid, the better MORE is a "central figure" in the effort and that Attorney General William BarrBill BarrHolding defiant Trump witnesses to account, Jan. 6 committee carries out Congress's constitutional role Jan. 6 panel recommends contempt charges for Trump DOJ official Appeals court questions Biden DOJ stance on Trump obstruction memo MORE is also involved.
The White House on Wednesday released a memo on the phone call indicating that Trump urged Zelensky to work with Giuliani and Barr to investigate the Bidens. Trump at one point asked Zelensky for a "favor" after the Ukrainian president asked about buying U.S. anti-tank missiles, according to documents.
Trump has repeatedly lashed out at Democrats and the news media over their response to the revelations regarding his talks with Ukraine. He said during the private event that "animals in the press" were "some of the worst human beings you’ll ever meet" and denounced Democrats over their new impeachment inquiry.
He also denounced Biden as "dumb as a rock" and his son, Hunter, as someone with "a lot of problems."
His comments came as Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, testified before lawmakers about the handling of the whistleblower complaint. Maguire had initially declined to give Congress access to the documents.
He said during the House Intelligence Committee hearing that he believed the whistleblower did the "right thing" in a "unique and unprecedented" case. He also defended the decision to withhold the information, stating that officials in the Justice Department determined that Trump's conversation with a foreign leader were protected by executive privilege.
The White House again dismissed the significance of the whistleblower complaint on Thursday, saying in a statement that the documents were "a collection of third-hand accounts of events and cobbled-together press clippings — all of which shows nothing improper."
"The White House will continue to push back on the hysteria and false narratives being peddled by Democrats and many in the mainstream media, and President Trump will continue to work hard on behalf of the American people as he always does," said press secretary Stephanie GrishamStephanie GrishamBiden briefly transfers power to Harris while he gets colonoscopy Grisham thinks Trump will run in 2024 and have no 'guardrails' Sunday shows preview: Senate votes to raise debt ceiling; Facebook whistleblower blasts company during testimony MORE.
Updated at 1:45 p.m.