WASHINGTON – Railing against impeachment at a meeting of his Cabinet, an angry President Donald Trump called Monday for the identification of the government whistleblower who made the first accusations against him.
“Do we have to protect somebody that gave a totally false account of my conversation?" Trump said at one point. "I don’t know. You tell me.”
House Democrats conducting the impeachment inquiry say federal laws are designed to protect the identities of whistleblowers.
They also said the statements of this particular whistleblower are consistent with a partial transcript of July 25 phone call in which Trump pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a 2020 presidential contender, and Biden's son Hunter, who once had business interests in Ukraine.
The president disagreed, telling reporters Democrats have "nothing."
"I think they want to impeach me because it's the only way they're going to win," he said. "They've got nothing. All they have is a phone call that is perfect. All they have is a whistleblower who's disappear. Where is he?"
Trump also said officials who provided the whistleblower with information should also be exposed.
Mimi Rocah, a former federal prosecutor in New York City, said it would be illegal for Trump or anyone else to "out" the whistleblower.
"The whistleblower was a tipster and, just like when someone calls the police to say 'Hey, I heard that five people robbed a bank today and here is where they did it and left the evidence,' you don’t need anything more from the tipster – you go and find the evidence," Rocah said. "That’s what’s happened here and we also have multiple confessions."
She called Trump's comments "a transparent attempt to divert our attention" from the facts of the case.
The impeachment inquiry centers on whether Trump abused his office for his own political gain when he pushed Ukraine to investigate the Bidens during a time when the administration was holding up military aid for the country. Trump has said he did nothing improper and that there was no "quid pro quo" in which he used the aid as leverage to get Ukraine to investigate a political rival.
Impeachment was one of several topics Trump covered in remarks to reporters during a Cabinet meeting.
During the session, Trump also:
– Lambasted top Democrats Rep. Adam Schiff and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., over the impeachment inquiry, saying they are focused on that and ignoring the nation's real problems.
"These people are trying to destroy the country," he said.
He added, "the president of the United States should be allowed to run the country and not have to focus on this kind of crap, while at the same time doing a great job on Syria and Turkey."
– Defended one of his foremost critics – Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard – against attacks by a more long-term political foe: Hillary Clinton.
Clinton is "accusing everyone of being a Russian agent," Trump said. "These people are sick. There’s something wrong with them.”
While not specifically naming Gabbard, Clinton last week referred to the Hawaii congresswoman by saying during a political podcast that "she's the favorite of the Russians." Clinton added that "they have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her so far."
In a series of tweets, Gabbard called Clinton the "personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party for so long," and said she is part of a "concerted campaign" to destroy her reputation.
– Chided Democrats for pushing back against his decision to host the G-7 summit of world leaders at his resort in Doral, Florida. The president on Twitter Saturday reversed his decision to host the summit there, suggesting Camp David could serve as an alternative site.
"I would have given it for nothing," Trump said of Doral to reporters in the Cabinet Room Monday. "The Democrats went crazy, even though I would have done it free."
– Attacked Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, for criticizing his actions and suggested that Republicans are not as united behind him as Democrats are in seeking to impeach him.
Democrats are ambitious and stick together, Trump said.
"They don't have Mitt Romney in their midst," he said. "They don't have people like that. They stick together. You never see them break off."
Trump also attacked "Never Trump" Republicans who have always attacked him, claiming they are worse than Democrats.
"The good news is they're dying off fast," Trump said. "They're on artificial respiration."
Democrats denounced Trump's various comments during the 71-minute Cabinet meeting. Ronald Klain, chief of staff for vice presidents Al Gore and Joe Biden, tweeted that it was a "tirade of lies, deceptions, delusions, and distractions."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Impeachment: Trump says Ukraine whistleblower should be identified