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 TrumpSchiff pleads to Senate GOP: 'Right matters. And the truth matters.' Anita Hill to Iowa crowd: 'Statute of limitations' for Biden apology is 'up' Sen. Van Hollen releases documents from GAO investigation 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 GrahamDemocrats hammer abuse of power charge, allege Trump put self over country Video becomes vital part of Democrats' case against Trump Nadler plays 1999 clip of Graham defining high crimes: 'It doesn't even have to be a crime' 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 GrassleyTrump to sign USMCA next Wednesday Trump administration releases rule to restrict 'birth tourism' On The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Grassley signs USMCA, sending it to Trump's desk | Union membership falls to record low | Manufacturers want Trump tax provision made permanent | Warren presses banks on climate plans MORE (R-Iowa), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeThe self-fulfilling Iran prophecy No patriotic poll bump for Trump, but Soleimani strike may still help him politically Senators are politicians, not jurors — they should act like it MORE (R-Utah) and Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonSenate Republicans confident they'll win fight on witnesses Senators press DHS over visa approval for Pensacola naval base shooter Nadler gets under GOP's skin 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 BidenSchiff pleads to Senate GOP: 'Right matters. And the truth matters.' Anita Hill to Iowa crowd: 'Statute of limitations' for Biden apology is 'up' Sen. Van Hollen releases documents from GAO investigation 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."