Donald Trump denies whistleblower complaint about improper promise to foreign leader

David Jackson and Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Thursday denied making an improper promise to an unnamed foreign leader. The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee criticized the administration for hiding the details of a whistleblower's complaint against the president.

Saying "many people" within the government have access to his conversations with international counterparts, Trump tweeted, "Is anybody dumb enough to believe that I would say something inappropriate with a foreign leader while on such a potentially 'heavily populated' call."

Trump did not specify details of the complaint against him, nor did other administration officials.

The Washington Post, citing unnamed sources, reported that Trump’s contact with the foreign leader included a promise that a U.S. intelligence official found troubling enough to warrant filing a whistleblower complaint with the inspector general for intelligence agencies.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said the intelligence community and the administration refuse to release the whistleblower's complaint about Trump's dealings with the foreign leader.

Schiff accused the administration of trying to shield the president. "There is an effort to prevent this information getting to Congress," he said.

“There is no privilege to be corrupt," Schiff said after his committee held a closed-door meeting with the intelligence community's inspector general, Michael Atkinson.

Atkinson "determined that this complaint is both credible and urgent and that it should be transmitted to Congress under the clear letter of the law," Schiff said before the hearing.

According to Schiff, the office of the director of national intelligence – with the help of Trump's Justice Department – refused to turn over the complaint, saying it involves classified information.

The standoff figures to continue for a while. The acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, is scheduled to testify before Schiff's committee next Thursday.

Trump's aides have not commented on the whistleblower complaint, which was filed Aug. 12.

In the weeks before that, the foreign leaders Trump spoke with included Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mongolian President Khaltmaagiin Battulga, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

The president also met with numerous foreign leaders at a G-20 summit in Japan in late June, including Putin.

In 2017, Trump allegedly discussed intelligence information in a meeting with Russian officials.

Trump said he had the "absolute right" to share intelligence information with other countries and in the case of Russia, it involved terrorism and airline safety.

"I cannot remember a whistleblower trying to blow a whistle on a president, & this cant just be about Trump's handling of classified materials," tweeted Michael McFaul, ambassador to Russia during  President Barack Obama's administration. "Like it or not, the president can declassify whatever he wants when he wants. Something bigger seems to be going on."

Andrew Bakaj, the attorney for the whistleblower, declined to comment.

In a Twitter post, Bakaj said, "While I cannot say a whole lot, I can say this story underscores the importance of both a robust oversight system while protecting sources engaging in lawful, protected activity. It also highlights the importance of a strong, independent, and ethical Office of Inspector General."

After the closed-door hearing, Schiff said Trump's Justice Department is involved in an effort to “withhold” the information from Congress.

Justice’s involvement is detailed in a Sept. 13 letter from the director of national intelligence’s general counsel to congressional leaders indicating that the department was consulted in the determination that the complaint did not have to be disclosed to Congress because it did not rise to the necessary threshold of an “urgent concern.”

The determination effectively overruled the assessment of the inspector general who transmitted the complaint to the director of national intelligence, believing that the information was an urgent matter.

“The system is badly broken,” Schiff said.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Donald Trump denies having improper talk with foreign leader