Trump made the comparison at a private event following the release of a declassified version of the complaint, according to a recording obtained by the Los Angeles Times.
“This is really terrible — Trump suggesting that a dedicated civil servant striving to defend our Constitution and rule of law is a spy and traitor. I worry about threats on his or her life,” Merkley said Thursday in a tweet that also contained the recording.
“Basically, that person never saw the report, never saw the call, he never saw the call — heard something and decided that he or she or whoever the hell they saw — they’re almost a spy,” Trump said at an event at the Intercontinental Hotel in New York, according to the L.A. Times.
“I want to know who’s the person, who’s the person who gave the whistleblower the information? Because that’s close to a spy,” he added. “You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart? Right? The spies and treason, we used to handle it a little differently than we do now.”
The complaint, which said that “multiple White House officials with direct knowledge” told the whistleblower about details of a July call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, was released Thursday.
The officials told the whistleblower that “the President used the remainder of the call to advance his personal interests. Namely, he sought to pressure the Ukrainian leader to take actions to help the President’s 2020 reelection bid,” the complaint said.
President Trump has denied wrongdoing in his phone call with Zelensky and blasted the complaint as “Another Fake News Story!”