President Trump told employees at the United States Mission to the United Nations on Thursday that he wants to know who provided information for an alert about his telephone conversation with the President of Ukraine, saying that whoever did so was "close to a spy" and that "in spies were treated differently.
The comment paralyzed people in the audience, according to a person briefed on what was happening and a partial audio recording of Trump's remarks. Trump made the statement several minutes after his comments before the group around Initially, he condemned 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.
"I want to know h who is the person who gave the notifier information because it is near a spy, "Trump said. “You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart with spies and betrayals, right? We used to handle it a little differently than we do now. "
The president's comments were a breach of an intelligence-whipping law that protects intelligence officials from reprisals – such as losing security clearance or being demoted or fired – as long as they follow a certain process to bring allegations of misconduct by regulators.
The Democratic chairmen of the House Foreign, Intelligence and Supervision and Reform Committees, seeking the testimony of the whistleblower, called the president's remarks "reprehensible witness intimidation." The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The whistleblower's complaint, published Thursday morning, contained information about the conversation gathered from several United States officials, and expressed concern that the president was pressuring the Ukrainian president to investigate Mr. Biden, who is ruining the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination , and Mr. Biden's son.
[ Read a transcript of the notes and listen to more audio. ]
During the mission, Trump withdrew the complaint and attacked the news media as "animals in the press." He displaced Representative Adam B. Schiff, head of the intelligence committee, as well as the former vice president, whom he called "silent as a rock. "
As Trump sank, the presidential re-election campaign was busy raising money from the threat of injustice as he and the White House tried to turn the tables on Democrats.
“Nancy is trying to IMPEACH my dad for nothing! "Donald Trump Jr., the president's son, wrote in a text message about Speaker Nancy Pelosi when he asked supporters to join an Impeachment Defense Team on Trump's behalf. He said any donations would be doubled. Another of the president's sons, Eric, said on Twitter that the online war against injustice had netted his father's $ 8.5 million reelection campaign from small-dollar donors over two days.
The White House, a member of staff responsible for sending messages to high-profile supporters, Julia Hahn, sent out emails that said the whistleblower's report was "based on hearing," while the Republican National Committee pressed an message with headline stating that "the witch hunt is back on." The event was closed to reporters, and during his remarks, the president called the news media "foam" and labeled them crooked. The ambassador to the United Nations, Kelly Knight Craft, was in the room.
Mr. Trump spoke as the acting director of national intelligence testified before Congress about the whistleblower.
At a fundraiser on Cipriani 42nd Street in Manhattan just after the incident on the mission, Trump walked out in front of the crowd of hundreds of donors and said, clutching paper in one of his hands, "This is the call." He then said it was "The biggest thing" that happened to the Republican Party because it had raised so much money from the controversy.  On board Air Force One on its way back to Washington on Thursday afternoon, Trump became angry as he watched TV news coverage about the whistleblower, employees said. Just before landing, Trump took to Twitter, saying again that the whistleblower had "secondhand information" and called the inquiry "Another witch hunt!" On the asphalt at Joint Base Andrews, Trump was in no mood to ask questions.
Instead, he got off the plane and spoke directly into the news cameras.
"Democrats are going to lose the election, and they know it," Trump fumed. "That's why they do it." He added that there should be a way to stop Democrats in court.
Later, Trump reappeared for reporters, posing for a photo opportunity with several dozen attorneys singing "United States" and giving the president a three-piece plaque.
While taking the prize and burning it in the air, the president addressed the officials.
"I'm a big fan," Trump told them before heading back in.