On Thursday, President Donald Trump dialed up his defense against the whistleblower whose revelations have led to an impeachment inquiry, likening those who fielded intelligence to the whistleblower to "spies." This reaction come after the whistleblower complaint was made public. Trump also suggested harsh punishment for the whistleblower, like "what we used to do in the old days."
According to report by both The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times, on Thursday morning Trump told a private group at a hotel that the people who sent information to the whistleblower were "close to a spy." The Los Angeles Times was given a recording of Trump's remarks by a person who was there. The New York Times was briefed by a person who was present.
According to the audio, Trump said:
"But basically that person never saw the report, never saw the call. Never saw the call. Heard something, and decided that he or she or whoever the hell it is — sort of like almost a spy. 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. 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."
In the audio, Trump also called the press "scum."
"They’re scum, many of them are scum. You have some good reporters but not many, I’ll be honest with you," Trump said. "And that’s one of the things we battle."
On Thursday, the whistleblower's complaint was made public, though the name of the whistleblower remains unknown — common practice with these kinds of whistleblower complaints, as outing their identity could put them at political, career and/or personal risk. According to the whistleblower, the person had "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."
The complaint stated: "This interference includes, among other things, pressuring a foreign country to investigate one of the President’s main domestic political rivals. The President’s personal lawyer, Mr. Rudolph Giuliani, is a central figure in this effort. Attorney General [William] Barr appears to be involved as well."