Intel community watchdog appears to push back on Trump allegations of changes to whistleblower rules

The intelligence community inspector general (ICIG) on Monday appeared to push back on allegations that the rules regarding whistleblower reports had been changed shortly before the complaint regarding President TrumpDonald John TrumpDeWine tests negative for coronavirus a second time Several GOP lawmakers express concern over Trump executive orders Beirut aftermath poses test for US aid to frustrating ally MORE's dealings with Ukraine was filed. 

The Office of the Inspector General issued a four-page news release in which it made clear that the whistleblower complaint focused on Trump's July 25 call with the Ukrainian president was processed under procedures put in place in May 2018.

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The inspector general wrote that under the statute, a complainant is not required to have firsthand knowledge of the matter they are referring. However, the anonymous author of the Aug. 12 complaint wrote that they had both firsthand information and information from others about the subject. 

"The ICIG reviewed the information provided as well as other information gathered and determined that the complaint was both urgent and that it appeared credible," the Office of the Inspector General said in Monday's news release. "From the moment the ICIG received the whistleblower’s filing, the ICIG has worked to effectuate Congress’s intent, and the whistleblower’s intent, within the rule of law. The ICIG will continue in those efforts on behalf of all whistleblowers in the Intelligence Community."

The clarification came as Trump and Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSeveral GOP lawmakers express concern over Trump executive orders Graham says he appreciates Trump orders, but 'would much prefer a congressional agreement' Sunday shows preview: White House, congressional Democrats unable to breach stalemate over coronavirus relief MORE (R-S.C.) have claimed the rules for filing a complaint were changed just before the whistleblower on the Ukraine call came forward.

"This is a sham as far as I am concerned," Graham said on "Face the Nation" on Sunday. "I want to know who told the whistleblower about the phone call. I want to know why they changed the rules about whistleblowers not — the hearsay rule was changed just a short period of time before the complaint was filed."

Trump echoed the senator on Monday, asking in all caps "who changed the long standing whistleblower rules just before submittal of the fake whistleblower report?" 

Sens. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyMcConnell goes hands-off on coronavirus relief bill GOP chairmen hit back at accusation they are spreading disinformation with Biden probe On The Money: Unemployment debate sparks GOP divisions | Pandemic reveals flaws of unemployment insurance programs | Survey finds nearly one-third of rehired workers laid off again MORE (R-Iowa), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeOvernight Defense: Air Force general officially becomes first African American service chief | Senators introduce bill to block Trump armed drone sale measure | State Department's special envoy for Iran is departing the Trump administration Senators introduce bill to block Trump armed drone sale measure Trump signs major conservation bill into law MORE (R-Utah) and Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonBlumenthal calls for declassification of materials detailing Russian threat to US elections Democrats try to force Trump to boost medical supplies production GOP chairmen hit back at accusation they are spreading disinformation with Biden probe MORE (R-Wis.) wrote to Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson on Monday asking for clarity about a reported change in the whistleblower complaint process that no longer required complainants to have firsthand knowledge.

Those senators wrote to Atkinson that they were not aware of any federal regulation that required whistleblowers to have firsthand knowledge, and they sought information on why such a policy might have been enacted.

The whistleblower complaint was made public last week. The individual's recounting of events matched up with a rough White House transcript of Trump's call with the Ukrainian president in which he urged the foreign leader to "look into" Democratic presidential candidate Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden says Trump executive order is 'a reckless war on Social Security' Trump got into testy exchange with top GOP donor Adelson: report Blumenthal calls for declassification of materials detailing Russian threat to US elections MORE.

The whistleblower further alleged that the White House sought to conceal the contents of the call and restrict access to the transcript to a small group of people.

The president has railed against the whistleblower, accusing the individual of being partisan and decrying their allegations as secondhand information. Trump has said he does not know the whistleblower's identity but told reporters earlier Monday that the White House was working on learning it.

The Whistleblower Protection Act makes it a violation for federal agencies to threaten retaliation against individuals who come forward to raise concerns of wrongdoing within the government.

Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire last week called the complaint "credible" and said the whistleblower "did the right thing."