US & World

Trump denies promise that led to formal complaint from US spy

Trump at the border wallImage copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr Trump says he would only do what’s “good for the USA”

Donald Trump has denied a report alleging he made a promise to a foreign leader, something that sparked a whistleblower’s formal complaint.

The Washington Post said the intelligence official found the comment “so troubling” they went to the department’s inspector general.

In a tweet, Mr Trump dismissed the claims as “fake news”.

Democrats are trying to get the complaint turned over to Congress, with the details still unknown.

It is not yet known who made the complaint, which foreign leader Mr Trump was speaking to, what promise – if any – was made and whether Mr Trump took any action as a result.

However, US media reports say it had something to do with Ukraine, according to officials with knowledge of the matter – although it is unclear to what extent or in what way.

Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, said the complaint consists of a “serious or flagrant problem, abuse or violation of the law” that involves classified information, a letter to lawmakers revealed.

The complaint was filed on 12 August, while Mr Trump was at his golf resort in New Jersey, according to the Post, which noted five foreign leaders with whom Mr Trump had interactions in the preceding five weeks.

During that time he phoned Russia’s Vladimir Putin, received at least two letters from North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, and met at the White House the leaders of Pakistan, the Netherlands and Qatar.

In his tweet Mr Trump wrote “is anybody dumb enough to believe that I would say something inappropriate with a foreign leader”.

Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire has so far refused to share any details of the complaint with lawmakers, leading to an outcry among Democrats.

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, a Democratic California Congressman, praised the whistleblower for coming forward after a closed hearing with Mr Atkinson on Thursday.

He also accused the White House and Justice Department of intervening to block the complaint from being shared with Congress.

“I believe that there is an effort to prevent this information getting to Congress,” said Mr Schiff.

“And if the assertion is accurate… then at one level or another, it likely involves either the president or people around him.”

Trump vs spies

Analysis by Tara McKelvey, White House reporter

Many of those who work in the US intelligence services don’t trust Trump. They don’t think that he can keep a secret (he apparently revealed classified information to Russians in the Oval Office), and they don’t like the way he talks about them (in a tweet about a news leak, he compared them to Nazis).

The controversy over the president’s “promise” to a foreign leader during a phone call – and a whistleblower complaint about the matter – is a reminder of the acrimonious relationship between the president and those who work in the intelligence services.

Yet like much of what happens in the world of intelligence, the matter is shrouded in mystery. It’s still unclear whom the president spoke to, for example, or what he said. In this case, though, some of these questions will be addressed during a House intelligence committee scheduled for next week, and more information may be available to the public.

As Trump himself would say: stay tuned.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *