The whistleblower at the center of the House's impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump first contacted the staff of the House Intelligence Committee for guidance before sending the complaint to the Trump administration, according to a spokesman and a new report.
The panel's staff advised the whistleblower to contact the intelligence community inspector general and seek legal counsel but did not receive the complaint in advance, wrote Patrick Boland, a spokesman for House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, in a statement released on Wednesday.
Schiff "learned about the outlines" of the whistleblower's concerns before the whistleblower filed the complaint, The New York Times first reported. The whistleblower reportedly turned to the House panel only after a colleague brought vague concerns to the CIA's top lawyer, and became unsatisfied with that path.
Last week, the Trump administration released the whistleblower's complaint that has become the basis for the House impeachment inquiry. The complaint alleges that Trump used "the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election," citing information received from multiple government officials.
The complaint and a reconstructed call transcript released by the White House show that Trump pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in July to initiate an investigation that he thought could benefit his reelection. Senior White House officials endeavored to conceal records of the call including the official transcript, according to the complaint.
On the phone call, Trump pressed Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading presidential candidate for the Democratic nomination, and his son, Hunter, who sat on the board of an energy company, Burisma Holdings, whose owner had been probed by the former Ukrainian general prosecutor. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Joe or Hunter Biden.
In a news conference on Wednesday, Trump accused -- without citing any evidence -- that Schiff assisted the whistleblower in writing the complaint.
"I think it's a scandal that he knew before," said Trump. "I'd go a step further — I think he probably helped write it."
"He knew long before and he helped write it too," added the President. "It's a scam."
An attorney representing the intelligence whistleblower told CNN that no one from House Intelligence Committee helped the whistleblower write their complaint. When asked by CNN if Schiff or the House panel helped with the complaint in any way, the whistleblower's attorney, Mark Zaid, said, "Absolutely not."
In his statement, Boland wrote that it was a "regular occurrence" for a whistleblower to contact the Intelligence Committee for guidance and said that the staff "appropriately advised" the whistleblower.
"The whistleblower should be commended for acting appropriately and lawfully throughout every step of the process," Boland continued. "The Committee expects that they will be fully protected, despite the President's threats."
Boland also wrote: "At no point did the Committee review or receive the complaint in advance."
In response to Trump's comments Wednesday accusing Schiff of helping to write the complaint, a Democratic Committee aide said "The assertion by President Trump that Chairman Schiff participated in any way in the drafting or writing of the complaint is unequivocally false."
On NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday, Schiff said that he did not know and had not met the whistleblower.