US congressional panel examines whistleblower complaint involving Trump

Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) at the Capitol before a committee meeting with Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire to discus a whistleblower complaint (AFP Photo/Samuel Corum)

Washington (AFP) - A senior US intelligence official appeared before a congressional committee Thursday to discuss a whistleblower complaint which The Washington Post said involves behavior by President Donald Trump.

According to the newspaper, the complaint filed by a US intelligence official stemmed from Trump's communications with a foreign leader and a "promise" allegedly made by the president.

The foreign leader involved was not identified by the Post.

The intelligence official filed a complaint with Michael Atkinson, the inspector general of the intelligence community (IC IG), the Post said, adding that Atkinson considered it a matter of "urgent concern" that necessitated the notification of congressional oversight committees.

Representative Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said Atkinson was appearing behind closed doors for a briefing on his handling of the whistleblower complaint.

"The IC IG 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 in a statement.

"The committee places the highest importance on the protection of whistleblowers and their complaints to Congress."

Trump dismissed the concerns in a Twitter thread, calling the story "fake news," and noting that any time he speaks with foreign leaders by phone he is well aware that there are likely "many people" listening from US agencies.

"Knowing all of this, is anybody dumb enough to believe that I would say something inappropriate with a foreign leader while on such a potentially 'heavily populated' call," he said.

"Presidential Harassment!" he boomed.

The Atkinson briefing in a US Capitol secure room lasted all morning and into Thursday afternoon. Lawmakers who left the room declined to talk with reporters.

Schiff said Joseph Maguire, the acting Director of National Intelligence, has agreed to testify in open session before the committee on September 26 but the Post said Maguire has so far refused to share details about the complaint with Congress.

The Post said the whistleblower complaint was filed with the Inspector General on August 12 and that it involved Trump's communications with a foreign leader.

According to the newspaper, Trump had communications or interactions with at least five foreign leaders in the preceding five weeks, including a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 31.

During that period, Trump also met with the prime minister of Pakistan, the prime minister of the Netherlands and the emir of Qatar and received two letters from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, it said.

Trump has had an uneasy relationship with the US intelligence community since taking office and has frequently been critical of their work.