Nets See ‘Growing Scandal,’ ‘Constitutional Showdown’ Over Trump Phone Call

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An anonymous intelligence official has claimed that President Trump said something to someone during a phone call that the unnamed official found troubling. That is a summation of the flimsy reporting in The Washington Post that all three network morning shows seized on Thursday morning. With almost no facts to go on, reporters on NBC, ABC, and CBS breathlessly declared a “growing scandal” and “potential constitutional showdown” over the matter.

“Breaking overnight, White House whistleblower. A formal complaint filed by a U.S. intelligence officer against President Trump. This morning, the mystery surrounding what the President may have promised a foreign leader during a phone call,” co-host Hoda Kotb proclaimed at the top of NBC’s Today show.

 

 

Leading off a report minutes later, White House correspondent Kristen Welker hyped the vague story:

This has been a closely-guarded secret in Washington, until now. We knew that a whistleblower – a whistleblower complaint had been filed by an intelligence official, but now we’re learning that it was sparked by a call between President Trump and an unidentified foreign leader.

Without knowing any of the actual substance of the allegedly worrisome phone call, the reporter insisted that it was a “growing scandal” for the administration: “This morning, we’re learning a phone call between President Trump and another world leader prompted a whistleblower complaint at the center of a growing scandal in Washington.”

Welker fretted that “The complaint has led to a standoff between Congress and Acting Director of National Intelligence, Joseph Maguire, who has refused to turn it over to the House Intelligence Committee.” Near the end of the segment, after co-host Craig Melvin asked about where the story goes next, Welker reiterated: “...that secret complaint has been the subject of an intense standoff between the acting intelligence chief, Joseph Maguire, and Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.”

“The new whistleblower complaint. A report this morning about a promise President Trump may have made to a foreign leader. It’s raising concerns. Why is it being blocked from Congress?,” ABC’s Good Morning America co-host George Stephanopoulos announced as the show began. In a later report, justice correspondent Pierre Thomas sensationalized: “A potential constitutional showdown is escalating with the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee demanding to know more about a Trump administration whistleblower and reporting from The Washington Post that the paper claims points to the President.”

A soundbite ran of Post reporter Greg Miller ominously noting:

All of this stems from a complaint that a member of the U.S. intelligence community filed with the Inspector General on August 12th. If you look at the weeks leading up to that complaint, President Trump had spoken to or had conversations with about five foreign leaders. Most notably among them was Vladimir Putin.

Thomas promoted Democratic “outrage” on the topic:

This has left House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff outraged, demanding answers and suggesting a cover-up....In a letter obtained by ABC News, Schiff tells Joseph Maguire, the Acting Director of National Intelligence, that he can only conclude, quote, “that the serious misconduct at issue involves the President of the United States or senior White House or administration officials.” Schiff goes on to say he has grave concerns that the administration is engaged in, quote, “an unlawful effort to protect the President.”

Following the report, Stephanopoulos enthused: “Meantime, this is moving very quickly. The Inspector General is actually going to appear before the Intelligence Committee this morning.” Thomas replied: “He will. We don’t know what he will be allowed to say or what he will say. But I can tell you this, it’s escalating, George, with Schiff also promising a subpoena if he can’t get answers.”

CBS This Morning was the most measured in its coverage, providing the least amount of air time to the incomplete story and acknowledging that there was “still so much we don't know.” Even so, correspondent Weijia Jiang still joined her NBC and ABC colleagues in citing Democratic pronouncements of guilt:

Schiff pointed out this is the first time a director of national intelligence has overruled a determination from the Inspector General and he raised concerns that this refusal may indicate a cover-up to protect President Trump. On Sunday, Schiff said on Face the Nation that it is fair to assume this report involves the President, people around him, or both.

Later in morning, the President adamantly denied saying anything “inappropriate” during phone calls with world leaders.

Perhaps journalists should actually get all the facts first and then report the story, rather than simply assume a “scandal” or tout partisan accusations of wrongdoing without evidence.

Here is a transcript of the September 19 report on NBC’s Today show:

7:11 AM ET

CRAIG MELVIN: Also breaking overnight, word of a whistleblower inside Trump administration that’s triggered a showdown with the nation’s intelligence agencies. The issue? A phone call between the President and a foreign leader and what President Trump may have promised.

It comes as the ousted National Security Advisor unloads on his former boss. We have two reports from the White House, starting with NBC’s Kristen Welker. Kristen, good morning.

KRISTEN WELKER: Craig, good morning to you. This has been a closely-guarded secret in Washington, until now. We knew that a whistleblower – a whistleblower complaint had been filed by an intelligence official, but now we’re learning that it was sparked by a call between President Trump and an unidentified foreign leader.

All of this as the President is publicly feuding with his former National Security Advisor.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: White House Whistleblower; Complaint Filed Over Trump’s “Promise” to Foreign Leader]

This morning, we’re learning a phone call between President Trump and another world leader prompted a whistleblower complaint at the center of a growing scandal in Washington. The Washington Post first reporting that an intelligence official was so bothered by a “promise” President Trump made to a foreign leader that he filed a formal complaint with the Inspector General.

A former U.S. intelligence official familiar with the matter confirming the details to NBC News. What’s not clear is who the foreign leader was and what the President allegedly promised. The complaint has led to a standoff between Congress and Acting Director of National Intelligence, Joseph Maguire, who has refused to turn it over to the House Intelligence Committee. So far, the White House has not responded to a request for comment.

(...)

MELVIN: Kristen, going back to the whistleblower complaint for just a moment here, what more can you tell us about that? Where does that go from here?

WELKER: Well, Craig, look, over the last several days that secret complaint has been the subject of an intense standoff between the acting intelligence chief, Joseph Maguire, and Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Last night, Schiff saying Maguire has agreed to testify publicly next week. It’s a possible chance for the public to learn more about what happened during that phone call in question, Craig.

MELVIN: Alright, Kristen Welker from the White House. Kristen, thank you.

Here is a full transcript of the report on ABC’s GMA:

7:05 AM ET

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: We move on now to that breaking new report about a whistleblower who reported a troubling promise President Trump may have made to a foreign leader. The Washington Post broke the story about the complaint, which is being blocked from Congress. Our chief justice correspondent Pierre Thomas here with what we know right now. Good morning, Pierre.

PIERRE THOMAS: George, good morning. A potential constitutional showdown is escalating with the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee demanding to know more about a Trump administration whistleblower and reporting from The Washington Post that the paper claims points to the President.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Trump Whistleblower Mystery; Report: President’s “Promise” to Foreign Leader Prompted Complaint]

This morning, The Washington Post reporting that the genesis of a whistleblower’s complaint allegedly involves the President promising something to a foreign leader that left the Trump administration official unnerved and deeply concerned. The Post citing two unnamed former administration officials claims that the whistleblower was so alarmed he took his concerns to the Inspector General of the Office of Director of National Intelligence.

GREG MILLER [INTELLIGENCE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST]: All of this stems from a complaint that a member of the U.S. intelligence community filed with the Inspector General on August 12th. If you look at the weeks leading up to that complaint, President Trump had spoken to or had conversations with about five foreign leaders. Most notably among them was Vladimir Putin.

THOMAS: ABC News has not confirmed The Post reporting, but have obtained a series of letters between the Office of National Intelligence and Congress which confirms the Inspector General deemed the whistleblower’s complaint, quote, “of urgent concern.” One that might require notification of Congress. But those letters show that the Director of National Intelligence, after consulting with the Justice Department, disagreed that the matter was urgent and concluded his agency was under no obligation to forward the matter to Congress. This has left House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff outraged, demanding answers and suggesting a cover-up.

MILLER: It is the President of the United States who is at the center of this significant showdown between Congress and U.S. intelligence community.

THOMAS: In a letter obtained by ABC News, Schiff tells Joseph Maguire, the Acting Director of National Intelligence, that he can only conclude, quote, “that the serious misconduct at issue involves the President of the United States or senior White House or administration officials.” Schiff goes on to say he has grave concerns that the administration is engaged in, quote, “an unlawful effort to protect the President,” George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Pierre, The Washington Post is also reporting that the director – this acting director of national intelligence is uncomfortable to be caught in the middle between the Intelligence Committee and the Justice Department, who is blocking this right now.

Meantime, this is moving very quickly. The Inspector General is actually going to appear before the Intelligence Committee this morning.

STEPHANOPOULOS: He will. We don’t know what he will be allowed to say or what he will say. But I can tell you this, it’s escalating, George, with Schiff also promising a subpoena if he can’t get answers.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Pierre Thomas, thanks very much.

Here is a full transcript of the report on CBS This Morning:

7:08 AM ET

GAYLE KING: There is new information about a whistleblower’s claim that is bringing a top intelligence official to Capitol Hill for closed-door testimony later today. Weijia Jiang is at the White House with more on this story. Weija, how did this start?

WEIJIA JIANG: Well, Gayle, we are still waiting to find out a lot of the details about this, which remains a mystery. But here’s what we know this morning – the Inspector General for the intelligence community, who is testifying on Capitol Hill today, concluded that a complaint filed back in August was credible enough to be considered, quote, “an urgent concern.”

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Whistleblower Complaint on POTUS; WaPo: Intel Official Troubled by Trump Promise to Foreign Leader]

The Washington Post is reporting that an interaction between President Trump and a foreign leader is at the center of a whistleblower report, which “included a promise that was so troubling it prompted” a U.S. intelligence official to come forward. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff has issued a subpoena to obtain the whistleblower’s complaint. But the Acting Director of National Intelligence, Joseph Maguire, is refusing to hand over that report for now. Maguire says he determined the allegations did not merit “urgent concern,” and since they relate to a person outside of the intel community, he does not need to pass them along to Capitol Hill.

Schiff pointed out this is the first time a director of national intelligence has overruled a determination from the Inspector General and he raised concerns that this refusal may indicate a cover-up to protect President Trump. On Sunday, Schiff said on Face the Nation that it is fair to assume this report involves the President, people around him, or both. Anthony?

ANTHONY MASON: Weijia, thanks. Still so much we don't know there.

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