Fri | Nov 15, 2019

Trump defends himself against whistleblower complaint

Published:Friday | September 20, 2019 | 11:45 AM
President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in the Oval Office of the White House, Friday, September 20, 2019, Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump repeatedly defended himself Friday against an intelligence whistleblower’s potentially explosive complaint, including an allegation of wrongdoing in a reported private conversation Trump had with a foreign leader.

The complaint, which the administration has refused to let Congress see, remains shrouded in mystery but is “serious” and “urgent,” the government’s intelligence watchdog said. But Trump dismissed the matter, insisting he did nothing wrong.

He declared Friday that the complaint was made by a “partisan whistleblower,” though he later said he did not know the identity of the person.

He chided reporters for asking about it and said the complaint was “just another political hack job.”

“I have conversations with many leaders. It’s always appropriate. Always appropriate,” Trump said.

“At the highest level always appropriate. And anything I do, I fight for this country.”

Some of the whistleblower’s allegations appear to center on Ukraine, according to The Washington Post and The New York Times.

The newspapers cited anonymous sources familiar with the matter. The Associated Press has not confirmed the reports.

Trump, who sat in the Oval Office with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, whom he was hosting for a state visit, was asked if he knew if the whistleblower’s complaint centred on a July 25 phone call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky.

The president responded “I really don’t know” but continued to insist any phone call he made with a head of state was “perfectly fine and respectful.”

He berated reporters for asking about the whistleblower complaint.

The standoff raises fresh questions about the extent to which Trump’s allies are protecting the Republican president from oversight and, specifically, whether his new acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, is working with the Justice Department to shield the president from the reach of Congress.

It also plunged the Trump administration into an extraordinary showdown with Congress over access to the whistleblower’s complaint as lawmakers press their oversight of the executive branch.

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