President Donald Trump claimed, without evidence, that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., "helped write" the whistleblower complaint to the intelligence community that is at the center of an impeachment inquiry against him.
"I think it's a scandal that he knew before," Trump said Wednesday as he spoke alongside Finnish President Sauli Niinistö at a press conference in the White House. "I'd go a step forward — I think he probably helped write it. OK? That's what the word is."
Minutes before Trump's press conference began, the New York Times reported that that Schiff learned about the "outlines" of the whistleblower's "concerns" days before the whistleblower filed an official complaint to the inspector general of the intelligence community.
In a statement Wednesday, Patrick Boland, a spokesman for Schiff, confirmed the whistleblower had contacted the House Intelligence Committee for guidance "like other whistleblowers have done before" but said "at no point did the committee review or receive the complaint in advance."
“The whistle-blower contacted the committee for guidance on how to report possible wrongdoing within the jurisdiction of the intelligence community,” Boland added.
At the press conference Wednesday afternoon, Trump railed about news that the House Intelligence, House Foreign Affairs and House Oversight and Reform Committees were issuing a subpoena to the White House for documents related to his communications with Ukraine as part of its impeachment inquiry.
"This is a hoax. This is the greatest hoax," Trump said. "This is a fraudulent crime on the American people, but we'll work together. With 'Shifty Schiff,' and [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi and all of them — we'll see what happens. Because we did absolutely — I had a great call with the president of Ukraine. It was 100 percent — you have the transcript."
Trump was referring to his controversial July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, during which time he solicited Zelensky to investigate his potential 2020 rival, Joe Biden.
Support for impeachment swelled after Trump acknowledged he had asked Zelensky to investigate Biden — information that is contained in a public whistleblower complaint that claimed Trump was "using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election."
In recent days, Trump has demanded to know the whistleblower's identity as well as the identity of those who provided information to the whistleblower. He has discredited the whistleblower's allegations and claimed repeatedly that his conversation with Zelensky was "perfect."
"This country has to find out who that person was, because that person's a spy, in my opinion," Trump said earlier Wednesday during an event in the Oval Office with his Finnish counterpart.
Trump conceded, however, that there was value in protecting the identity of whistleblowers in some cases, stating: "I think a whistleblower should be protected if the whistleblower's legitimate."
Minutes before welcoming his Finnish counterpart to the White House, he assailed House Democrats on Twitter and referred to the impeachment inquiry as "BULLSHIT."
Later Wednesday, the State Department's inspector general is expected to give lawmakers an urgent "briefing" amid a standoff between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and House Democrats over Trump's communications with Ukraine.
The briefing is likely to concern the whistleblower complaint, which describes, in part, the State Department's role in coordinating communications between the president's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and Ukrainian officials.
The inspector general serves as an internal investigator and watchdog, and his office generally operates independently of the department.
The State Department has come under mounting scrutiny in recent weeks for allegedly connecting Giuliani to multiple Ukrainian officials about launching or reopening an investigation into Biden.
Pompeo's comments came a day after he pushed back against a request from congressional committees to schedule the depositions of five State Department officials as part of the House's impeachment inquiry. Pompeo accused the committees chairmen of trying to "intimidate, bully and treat improperly" those officials.