When an aide on the House Intelligence Committee was contacted earlier this year by a whistleblower concerned about the President’s actions, the aide followed procedure, according to a report Wednesday from The New York Times. The aide pointed the whistleblower to the Intelligence Community inspector general, where they could file a formal complaint, and told them to get a lawyer.
The whistleblower did both.
But news of the whistleblower reaching out to the Intelligence Committee was almost instantly weaponized by the President and his allies in an attempt to undermine the impeachment inquiry into his actions — from the GOP’s official Twitter page to the President himself.
“I think it’s a scandal that he knew before,” Trump said of a Schiff during a press conference with the Finnish president Wednesday.
“I’d go a step further, I think he probably helped write it.”
An attorney for the whistleblower told CNN, responding to the President’s comments, that it was “absolutely not” true that Schiff or the committee helped write the complaint.
“Our account suggests no such thing,” Times reporter Nicholas Fandos wrote of Trump’s comment on Twitter. The Times reported that the committee aide contacted by the whistleblower was given only a vague indication of what the complaint was.
“At no point did the committee review or receive the complaint in advance,” Schiff’s spokesperson told the Times.
And, testifying to Congress last week, Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire said the whistleblower was “acting in good faith” and “followed the law.”
“I believe that the whistleblower followed the steps every step of the way,” he said.
Of course, the facts didn’t get in the way of an insta-talking point.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), for example, tweeted that the report was evidence that Schiff had been “caught orchestrating with the whistleblower.”
Republican Party Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel called the article — which, again, describes the committee following standard procedure and pointing the whistleblower toward the intelligence community’s top watchdog — “a stunning indictment of this impeachment crusade.”
And on and on. White House staffer Kellyanne Conway, one of hundreds of tweets about the Times article at press time, wrote simply: “The Fix Was In.”
This post has been updated.