President Trump on Thursday morning told a crowd of staff from the United States Mission to the United Nations that he wants to know the identity of the individual who provided information to a whistleblower about his explosive phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, suggesting that the person who did so would have been executed “in the old days.”
“Basically, that person never saw the report, never saw the call, he never saw the call — heard something and decided that he or she, or whoever the hell they saw — they’re almost a spy,” Trump said to the group of about 50 people at the event intended to honor the United States Mission, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“I want to know who’s the person, who’s the person who gave the whistleblower the information? Because that’s close to a spy,” he continued.
“You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart? Right? The spies and treason, we used to handle it a little differently than we do now.” Trump added.
According to The New York Times, Trump’s remark “stunned people in the audience.”
The newspaper notes that at the outset of his remarks, Trump “condemned the former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s role in Ukraine at a time when his son Hunter Biden was on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.”
Trump repeatedly referred to the whistleblower and condemned the news media reporting on the complaint as “crooked” and “scum.”
The anonymous whistleblower acknowledged that he did not listen to Trump’s July 25 phone call with Zelensky, but cited information from more than half a dozen U.S. officials over the past four months as part of “official interagency business.”
A five-page summary transcript of that call released Wednesday shows that Trump repeatedly pressured Zelensky to investigate the former vice president and his son.
“Trump spoke just as Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, was defending the whistleblower at a hearing in the House Intelligence Committee, saying the individual ‘did the right thing’ and followed the law ‘every step of the way,’ ” according to the LA Times.
The NY Times notes:
Trump spoke as the director of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence was testifying before Congress that the president had never asked for the identity of the whistle-blower, whose complaint was initially withheld from Congress by the Trump administration. The complaint described concerns that the president was using his phone call with the Ukrainian president in July for personal gain to fulfill a political vendetta.
The ambassador to the United Nations, Kelly Knight Craft, was in the room.
The newspaper notes that in his remarks, Trump recounted his awkward meeting with Zelensky on Wednesday.
“They said, ‘Was he pressuring you?’” Trump said, describing a reporter’s question to Zalensky, who responded that he hadn’t felt any “push” but also said he didn’t want to get involved in the scandal.
“You know, these animals in the press,” Trump went on. “They’re animals, some of the worst human beings you’ll ever meet.”
Someone in the room shouted out “Fake news!”
“They’re scum,” Trump continued. “Many of them are scum, and then you have some good reporters, but not many of them, I’ll be honest with you.”