The latest on the Trump whistleblower mystery

4:13 p.m. ET, September 20, 2019

Here's the latest on the Trump whistleblower mystery

There are still a lot of unanswered questions about a whistleblower's complaint about President Trump.

Here's what we know so far about the complaint:

  • What happened: A communication between President Trump and a foreign leader prompted a whistleblower complaint. According to two reports, the mystery foreign nation is Ukraine.
  • Multiple actions: The intelligence community inspector general suggested the complaint raised concerns about multiple actions. However, he would not say if those instances involved Trump.
  • Congress hasn't seen it: America's top spy chief so far has refused to give the report to Congress, after advice, according to CNN reporting, from the Justice Department and the White House.
  • What Trump is saying: In a pair of tweets Friday, he referred to the whistleblower as "highly partisan" and also blamed Democrats and the media for the scandal. He also said his conversation was "pitch perfect." Trump held a news conference today — but no one asked him about the whistleblower.

12:51 p.m. ET, September 20, 2019

Trump just took questions, but no one asked him about the whistleblower

President Trump and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison took questions from reporters at a news conference moments ago.

However, the President was not asked about the whistleblower complaint. He answered questions about China, trade and the sanctions against Iran.

Before this news conference, President Trump and the Australian prime minister spoke to reporters, and Trump addressed some questions related to the whistleblower there. (You can read those highlights below.)

12:43 p.m. ET, September 20, 2019

Schiff says Congress will get to the bottom of the whistleblower complaint "come hell or high water"

Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) arrives to speak to members of the media after Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson met behind closed doors with the House Intelligence Committee at the U.S. Capitol on September 19, 2019 in Washington, DC. 
Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) arrives to speak to members of the media after Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson met behind closed doors with the House Intelligence Committee at the U.S. Capitol on September 19, 2019 in Washington, DC.  Alex Wong/Getty Images

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff told reporters Friday that Congress will get to the bottom of the whistleblower complaint come "hell or high water." He added that the complaint involves "something more sinister" than a policy difference.

Schiff said that the inspector general of the intelligence community determined it was within the purview of the DNI when asked if this had to do with an intelligence matter.

"Whether this involves Ukraine, or some other country, that the other finding that the inspector general had to make was this does not involve a policy difference. Because that doesn’t qualify as an urgent complaint," Schiff said.

"This involves something more sinister, something involving a serious or flagrant abuse or violation of law or misappropriation, and the IG underscored the seriousness of this, and also that this needs to be looked into. And right now, no one is looking into this."

Schiff said that the inspector general of the intelligence community determined it was within the purview of the DNI when asked if this had to do with an intelligence matter.

He added that he has not received an "adequate response" from the Trump administration to the request by his and two other committees for information related to Rudy Giuliani's communications with Ukrainian officials.

11:53 a.m. ET, September 20, 2019

Pelosi calls on intelligence chief to give whistleblower complaint information to Congress

House speaker Nancy Pelosi called for the director of national intelligence to "uphold the law" and provide Congress the information on the whistleblower complaint.

“Well, the law says that the DNI should send the information, shall, not should, shall send that information to Congress," Pelosi told CNN. "So the law is the law. So, we just have to uphold the law.”

Asked if she'll take the matter to court, Pelosi said, she'll be "taking guidance" from House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff.

On the topic of Ukraine and President Trump, Pelosi said she would speak about that later.

“I’ll make a statement later. I can’t even confirm it is the Ukraine," she said. "So, I’ll have a statement later.”

11:38 a.m. ET, September 20, 2019

Trump: "It’s a partisan whistleblower"

Trump continued to blast news of the whistleblower complaint this morning in the Oval Office, calling it "a ridiculous story."

“It’s a partisan whistleblower. They shouldn’t even have information. I’ve had conversations with many leaders. They’re always appropriate,” Trump said, adding, “It’s just another political hack job.”

Trump said he doesn't know the identity of the person who made the complaint.

“I don’t even know exactly who you’re talking about,” Trump said. “I don’t know the identity of the whistleblower. I just hear it’s a partisan person, meaning it comes out from another party.”
11:12 a.m. ET, September 20, 2019

SOON: Trump will hold a news conference

Trump is expected to answer questions at a conference at the White House at 11:45 a.m. ET.

He'll appear alongside Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who is visiting the President today.

The news conference comes as Trump announced new sanctions on Iran and during a mounting whistleblower scandal.

10:54 a.m. ET, September 20, 2019

Trump says he doesn't know if Ukraine's president is the foreign leader at the center of the complaint

President Trump was just asked to confirm whether the conversation that is the subject of the whistleblower's complaint was his July phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky.

President Trump responded: “I really don’t know.”

A little context: The Washington Post and The New York Times reported Thursday that the contacts at issue between Trump and the foreign leader involve Ukraine.

In the past, some of Trump's supporters, including his lawyer Rudy Giuliani, have urged the Kiev government to open investigations that the President could use to raise suspicions about his political rivals, including Joe Biden. 

10:39 a.m. ET, September 20, 2019

Trump calls the whistleblower story "ridiculous"

President Trump is downplaying a complaint submitted by an intelligence whistleblower that reportedly involves Ukraine.

Speaking in the Oval Office, Trump called the story "ridiculous" and described the whistleblower as partisan. 

Trump reiterated that his conversations with foreign leaders are appropriate.

Asked if he discussed former vice president Joe Biden with Ukraine's president, Trump said it "doesn't matter what I discussed" — but added that someone should look into Biden.

Trump said he did not know the identity of the whistleblower.

10:13 a.m. ET, September 20, 2019

5 things we don't know about the whistleblower complaint

The news that a whistleblower within the intelligence community filed a complaint about communications between President Donald Trump and a foreign leader shook an already-shaky political Washington on Wednesday night.

But there's still a ton we don't know. Here are five questions that remain unanswered:

  1. Who was the foreign leader? The Washington Post named five foreign leaders that Trump interacted with during the immediate period before the complaint was filed, but we're not sure if the leader involved is any of them.
  2. Who was listening to the conversation? Is there recorded audio? Remember: the President is almost never on the phone alone with a foreign leader. 
  3. Were there any actions before or after the incident that forced the whistleblower's hand? We don't know if the whistleblower documented behavior by Trump (or others) that led him or her to act. 
  4. Why is the Director of National Intelligence not giving Congress the complaint? By law, he was supposed to turn over the complaint to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees within a week. He has not done so.
  5.  Is what Trump did illegal? Almost certainly not. Even if Trump did disclose classified information in this communication with a foreign leader, he, as the President, has total power to declassify anything at any time. (To be clear: We do not know if the communication involved classified information.)