A spokesman for House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., acknowledged Wednesday that the whistleblower alleging misconduct in the White House had reached out to Schiff’s panel before filing a complaint — prompting President Trump to accuse Schiff of helping write the document.
“I think it’s a scandal that he knew before,” Trump said at a news conference in the White House. “That’s a big story. He knew long before, and he helped write it too. It’s a scam.”
Referring to Schiff as “Shifty Schiff,” Trump called Democrats’ impeachment inquiry a “fraudulent crime on the American people.”
The New York Times reported earlier Wednesday that Schiff “learned about the outlines” of the whistleblower’s complaint “days before” it was filed.
“He knew long before, and he helped write it too. It’s a scam.”
Speaking to Fox News, Schiff’s office denied that the intelligence committee had reviewed or received the complaint in advance, but largely confirmed the Times’ reporting.
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“Like other whistleblowers have done before and since under Republican and Democratic-controlled Committees, the whistleblower contacted the Committee for guidance on how to report possible wrongdoing within the jurisdiction of the Intelligence Community,” Patrick Boland, a spokesman for Schiff and the House Intelligence Committee, told Fox News. “This is a regular occurrence, given the Committee’s unique oversight role and responsibilities. Consistent with the Committee’s longstanding procedures, Committee staff appropriately advised the whistleblower to contact an Inspector General and to seek legal counsel.”
Boland added: “At no point did the Committee review or receive the complaint in advance. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, at the behest of the White House, refused to disclose the subject matter or the substance of the complaint to the Committee, despite its lawful obligation to do so, and despite the fact it was deemed ‘credible’ and of ‘urgent concern’ by the Intelligence Community Inspector General. The Committee did not receive the complaint until the night before the Acting Director of National Intelligence’s open hearing before the Committee – more than three weeks after the legal deadline by which the Committee should have received the complaint.”
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Boland went on to assert that the whistleblower should be “commended.”
Other GOP sources told Fox News that the development was unsettling and undermined the integrity of the Democrats’ ongoing impeachment inquiry.
“This is totally unsurprising,” a Republican official close to the matter told Fox News on Wednesday. “Schiff was clearly involved in orchestrating this from the very beginning.”
Republicans have suggested other Democrats besides Schiff may have had advance notice. House Republican Conference Chairman Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., on Monday pushed for answers on how much top Democrats knew about the explosive White House whistleblower’s complaint before it was officially made, after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s head-turning comments during a televised interview on Sunday.
“He told me it was perfect, that there was nothing on the call,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said on CBS News’ “60 Minutes,” referring to a conversation she had with President Trump before the Trump administration released either a transcript of his July phone call with Ukraine’s leader or the whistleblower’s complaint.
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“But, I know what was in the call,” Pelosi continued, before quickly adding, “I mean, uh, it was in the public domain.”
Pelosi’s remark drew scrutiny from Republicans because no verbatim account of Trump’s call had yet been made publicly available.
“@SpeakerPelosi said on 60 Minutes last night she knew the details of the classified Ukraine call before White House released transcript,” Cheney tweeted. “This is starting to seem like a political set up. So, Madame Speaker, ‘what did you know and when did you know it?’”
Speaking to Fox News, Pelosi communications director Ashley Etienne said the House speaker was referring only to publicly available information, and that Cheney had misinterpreted the question Pelosi had been asked. Etienne said that to her knowledge, Pelosi was not made aware of the whistleblower complaint or the contents of the transcript before they were publicly released.
Fox News’ Brooke Singman contributed to this report.