Threatens the whistleblower with big consequences publicly, and death threats at more private events.
Lawyers representing the whistleblower who filed a complaint about President Donald Trump's call with Ukraine's leader warned in a letter over the weekend that Trump has put the safety of their client at risk by describing the anonymous individual as a traitor and issuing open threats of retaliation.
"The purpose of this letter is to formally notify you of serious concerns we have regarding our client's personal safety," Andrew Bakaj, the lead attorney for the whistleblower, wrote (pdf) to Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire. "The events of the past week have heightened our concerns that our client's identity will be disclosed publicly and that, as a result, our client will be put in harm's way."
Bakaj cited Trump's suggestion behind closed doors last week that the people who informed the whistleblower should be executed as an example of the president endangering the safety of his client.
"The fact that the president's statement was directed to 'the person that gave the whistleblower the information' does nothing to assuage our concerns for our client's safety," wrote Bakaj. "Unfortunately, we expect this situation to worsen, and to become even more dangerous for our client and any other whistleblowers, as Congress seeks to investigate this matter."
The letter was sent hours before Trump took to Twitter Sunday night to accuse the person who informed the whistleblower of "spying on the U.S. president" and threaten "big consequences."
"Like every American, I deserve to meet my accuser, especially when this accuser, the so-called 'whistleblower,' represented a perfect conversation with a foreign leader in a totally inaccurate and fraudulent way," Trump tweeted. "In addition, I want to meet not only my accuser, who presented SECOND and THIRD HAND INFORMATION, but also the person who illegally gave this information."
Like every American, I deserve to meet my accuser, especially when this accuser, the so-called “Whistleblower,” represented a perfect conversation with a foreign leader in a totally inaccurate and fraudulent way. Then Schiff made up what I actually said by lying to Congress......— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 29, 2019
Trump's tweets sparked alarm among human rights advocates, who warned the president is clearly attempting to intimidate the whistleblower and others who may be considering sounding the alarm about his behavior.
"Threats against a whistleblower are not only illegal—the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989—but also indicative of a cover-up," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch.
Political scientist Miranda Yaver said in response to Trump's tweets, "If we saw this behavior in another country, the word 'democracy' wouldn't leap to mind."
The whistleblower's complaint, made public last week, alleged a frantic effort by the White House to cover up Trump's conversation with Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky, in which the U.S. president asked Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.
"In the days following the phone call, I learned from multiple U.S. officials that senior White House officials had intervened to 'lock down' all records of the phone call, especially the official word-for-word transcript of the call that was produced—as is customary—by the White House situation room," the whistleblower said.
Ari Berman, journalist for Mother Jones, said the complaint details misconduct that is "as bad, if not worse, than Watergate."
"Instead of hiring burglars to investigate political rival," Berman said, "Trump asked a foreign government to do it for him and then tried to cover it up."
From the second source:
President Donald Trump ratcheted up his defenses on Thursday, likening those who provided information to the whistleblower to spies, according to reports, and tweeting that "our country is at stake" on the day the complaint against the president was made public.
"THE DEMOCRATS ARE TRYING TO DESTROY THE REPUBLICAN PARTY AND ALL THAT IT STANDS FOR," Trump tweeted in all caps. "STICK TOGETHER, PLAY THEIR GAME, AND FIGHT HARD REPUBLICANS. OUR COUNTRY IS AT STAKE!"
Trump, according to multiple media outlets, told a private group at a midtown hotel Thursday morning that the people who gave information to the whistleblower were "close to a spy," and said the U.S. should "handle" them like it did "in the old days" — a veiled reference to execution.
The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times both reported on the comments. The Los Angeles Times was provided a recording of Trump's remarks by a person present for them, while The New York Times cited a person briefed on the remarks.
"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," Trump said, according to The Los Angeles Times. "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."
A U.S. official with knowledge of Trump’s remarks at the event told NBC News Trump also ripped the press as "scum."
Diplomats present for the remarks were taken aback to hear such explicitly political comments and attacks on the president's perceived enemies during an event for government workers, the official told NBC News.
In the complaint, which was made public with minimal redactions Thursday morning, the whistleblower makes it clear that a number of White House and administration officials provided information to him and that's largely what his claims are based on, in addition to information from previously published news stories.
From Trump Tower, where he was staying for the United Nations General Assembly, Trump sent out three dozen tweets and retweets in his defense over two hours on Thursday morning, continuing a week of persistent counterpunching at Democrats as they launched official impeachment proceedings against him.
Later Thursday, Trump again defended his call with the Ukrainian president, calling it "perfect" and accusing Democrats of blocking a domestic policy agenda that had little chance of getting anywhere even before the latest round of impeachment talks.
"What these guys are doing to this country is a disgrace, and it shouldn't be allowed. There should be a way of stopping it," Trump told reporters upon landing in Washington on his way back from New York.
As the acting director of national intelligence began to testify Thursday morning before Congress, Trump departed for a Manhattan fundraiser where he was to be surrounded by familiar faces from his former life as a New York businessman.
Raising money has been one bright spot for Trump. Adding to the $5 million haul the impeachment inquiry news brought in on Tuesday and Wednesday, the president raised $5 million at a fundraising dinner at a private home in Manhattan on Wednesday night, according to a Republican spokeswoman.
He was expected to bring in an additional $3 million at the breakfast Thursday morning, for a total of $13 million so far this week.
With his presidency facing what may be its biggest threat yet, Trump has cycled from offense to defense, reviving a strategy that he viewed as effective during Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. He tried to downplay his request for the Ukrainian president to help investigate his political rivals, divert attention to actions by Democrats and presidential contender Joe Biden, and discredit the whistleblower as having partisan motives.
“Nothing has changed with the release of this complaint, which is nothing more than a collection of third-hand accounts of events and cobbled-together press clippings — all of which shows nothing improper,” said White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham in a statement Thursday morning. She added that “the White House will continue to push back on the hysteria and false narratives being peddled by Democrats and many in the mainstream media.”
But White House advisers privately have admitted they are now in uncharted waters.
The intelligence whistleblower, whose name has not been released, has said they lodged the formal complaint because they believed that Trump was "using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country" in the 2020 election. In the call, Trump discussed having Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy help investigate the Biden family’s business dealings.
"The interference includes, among other things, pressuring a foreign country to investigate one of the president's main domestic political rivals," the whistleblower continued. "The president's personal lawyer, Mr. Rudolph Giuliani, is a central figure in this effort. Attorney General Barr appears to be involved as well."
The complaint, which was released with minimal redactions, stresses that there are witnesses who can back up the account, and indicates concern over the handling of the White House record of the call.
The whistleblower says the record of the conversation on July 25 between Trump and Zelenskiy was treated in an unusual way, including part of it being over-classified, in the whistleblower's view.
Before the release of the whistleblower account there were already worries among Trump’s allies, particularly as it related to the involvement of Giuliani.
Two Trump allies, one of whom is a former senior White House official, described a level of concern inside the White House that is far greater than Trump and his supporters have publicly acknowledged. The former official added that Giuliani’s role is particularly problematic legally because he has purely political and personal ties to Trump and no official role with the U.S. government.
"It’s both better than I think many of us thought, given what some of the speculation was, and also worse than many of us thought given what some of the speculation was," the official said. "The way in which it’s worse than people thought basically has to do with Giuliani."
TL;DR? Read the first paragraph in the first quote.