Politics

Trump claims whistleblower source committed 'treason,' suggests harsh punishment, reports say

Key Points
  • President Donald Trump compared sources for an unidentified whistleblower whose complaint has rocked Trump's administration to spies who have committed "treason," reports said.
  • The complaint alleges that Trump has been engaged in an effort to get Ukraine to investigate a leading political opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, and that White House officials covered up evidence of that effort.
  • House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff blasted Trump for the reported comments, which came as Schiff's committee was hearing testimony about the whistleblower's complaint.
President Donald Trump speaks to reporters after arriving aboard Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, September 26, 2019.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

President Donald Trump on Thursday raged about a whistleblower's bombshell complaint at a fundraising event, comparing its sources to spies and suggesting they committed "treason," several reports said.

Trump fumed about the whistleblower, who is a member of the intelligence community, as the explosive complaint about the president's actions became public Thursday morning.

The complaint alleges that Trump has been engaged in an effort to get Ukraine to investigate a leading political opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, and that White House officials took steps to cover up evidence of that effort.

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"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 at a private breakfast for staff from the United States Mission in New York, according to the Los Angeles Times.

"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," Trump said, according to the LA Times.

The New York Times, which published a similar account of Trump's remarks, reported that the president's comment "stunned people in the audience." The New York Times article cited a person briefed on what took place, who had notes of what Trump said.

Diplomats attending the event were taken aback to hear such explicitly political comments and attacks on the president's perceived enemies during an event for government workers, an official told NBC News

The crowd at the breakfast included U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft.

Photo illustration on September 26, 2019 shows redacted pages of the whistleblower complaint referring to President Donald Trump's call with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky.
Eva Hambach | AFP | Getty Images

The Times said Trump also referred to journalists as "scum" at the same event.

The whistleblower's complaint says that, "In the course of my official duties, I have received information from multiple U.S. Government officials that the President of the United States is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election."

Biden is a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination for that election.

The White House did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment about Trump's remarks.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., blasted Trump for the reported comments, which came as Schiff's committee was hearing testimony about the whistleblower's complaint from acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire.

"The President's suggestion that those involved in the whistleblower complaint should be dealt with as 'we used to do' for 'spies and treason' is a reprehensible invitation to violence against witnesses in our investigation," Schiff wrote on Twitter.

Trump is facing an impeachment inquiry by the House in connection with his alleged pressure of Ukraine in an effort to sway the 2020 presidential election, as well with other issues.