President Trump pressed Wednesday for the Ukraine call whistleblower to be “exposed and questioned” after new reports surfaced suggesting the whistleblower has ties to a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate.
“The Whistleblower’s facts have been so incorrect about my ‘no pressure’ conversation with the Ukrainian President, and now the conflict of interest and involvement with a Democrat Candidate, that he or she should be exposed and questioned properly,” Trump tweeted.
“This is no Whistleblower….The Whistleblower’s lawyer is a big Democrat. The Whistleblower has ties to one of my DEMOCRAT OPPONENTS. Why does the [Intelligence Community Inspector General] allow this scam to continue?”
Trump appeared to be responding to a Washington Examiner report that said Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson told lawmakers the whistleblower worked “or had some type of professional relationship” with one of the Democratic presidential candidates. It cited three sources familiar with Atkinson’s interview with lawmakers on Friday.
Atkinson did not identify the candidate and it was not clear what that working relationship was. But any connection with a top Democrat would fuel Republican and White House claims that the controversy is politically motivated.
On Friday sources told Fox News that Atkinson revealed the whistleblower volunteered that he or she was a registered Democrat and had a prior working relationship with a prominent Democratic politician.
The whistleblower, whose identity remains secret, originally alerted the inspector general to a July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which Trump sought investigations into possible Ukraine actions in the 2016 election and former Vice President Joe Biden’s conduct in relation to his own family’s ties in the country. Fox News first reported that the whistleblower, after learning of the call, wrote a dramatic personal memo saying a White House official characterized the call as “crazy,” “frightening,” and “completely lacking in substance related to national security.”
The whistleblower complaint touched off a controversy that led to the White House releasing a transcript of the call, while Democrats immediately launched an impeachment inquiry. On Wednesday, Trump called the whistleblower’s claims “a very big Lie,” and pointed to statements made by Zelensky that he felt no pressure.
“No Pressure at all said Ukraine! Very congenial, a perfect call. The Whistleblower and others spoke BEFORE seeing the Transcript,” he tweeted. “Now they must apologize to me and stop this ridiculous impeachment!”
Amid the escalating standoff, House Democrats are reportedly considering steps to keep the whistleblower’s identity from their Republican colleagues in order to prevent a Trump loyalist from leaking the person’s identity to the public.
The Washington Post, citing officials familiar with the discussions, reported that Democrats are considering the “extraordinary steps” that illustrate the toxic relationship between the two political parties.
The whistleblower’s attorney, Mark Zaid, also confirmed this past week that there is a second whistleblower who has come forward and has already spoken to the inspector general.
Zaid has noted the dangers whistleblowers can face when their identity is revealed, and has urged media outlets and government figures to avoid doing so.
“The story is not about the whistleblower. Focus on the allegations,” he said last month. “Exposing the whistleblower will only cause this individual tremendous problems and threaten their employment.”
Fox News’ Catherine Herridge contributed to this report.