FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump walks to address the media before boarding Marine One for a trip to New Mexico, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, U.S., September 16, 2019. REUTERS/Sarah Silbiger.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday told reporters a whistleblower complaint against him that has roiled Washington relates to a “totally appropriate conversation.”
Speaking in the Oval Office, Trump said he did not know the identity of the whistleblower or the precise accusations but that all of his conversations with foreign leaders were always appropriate.
“It’s a partisan whistleblower,” the Republican president said. “It’s just another political hack job. That’s all it is.”
The Trump administration is in a standoff with leaders of the Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives over the Aug. 12 complaint from a whistleblower within the intelligence community, reported by several U.S. news organizations to involve Trump’s communications with a foreign leader.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, responding on Twitter to a tweet in which Trump called the whistleblower “highly partisan,” said the president’s criticism could discourage other whistleblowers from coming forward.
“Your attack against a whistleblower increases the chance that corruption goes unreported, and heightens the risk of an illegal reprisal,” said Schiff, who is leading the Democrats’ efforts to obtain the complaint at the heart of the standoff.
An intelligence community watchdog determined that the complaint was credible, related to an urgent matter, and should be shared with congressional leaders through a process laid out by U.S. law.
That determination was overridden by acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire after consulting with the Justice Department.
“It was a totally appropriate conversation,” Trump said of the conversation at the heart of the whistleblower complaint. “It was actually a beautiful conversation.” But asked for certain details, Trump said he did not know which conversation the whistleblower complained about or with whom the conversation took place.
Reporting by Steve Holland and Jan Wolfe; Editing by Tom Brown and Howard Goller