NEWS
19/09/2019 17:37 BST | Updated 19/09/2019 17:55 BST

Donald Trump And The Whistleblower – The Latest White House Scandal Explained For Brits

The president asked whether anyone is "dumb enough" to believe he did what he is accused of doing.

Donald Trump has once again called reports that he has done something a little dodgy “fake news”, as another row erupts in Washington over the president’s behaviour.

Nothing new there, what’s different this time?

The latest furore is a bit mysterious, as it concerns a whistleblower complaint from a US intelligence official.

What does that actually mean?

Essentially, Trump did something that a US intelligence official deemed so serious that they went outside the regular channels and reported it directly to the intelligence community inspector general, Michael Atkinson.

The Washington Post said on Wednesday that Atkinson determined the complaint was credible and troubling enough to be considered a matter of “urgent concern”, a threshold that requires notification of congressional committees.

But acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire has so far refused to provide a copy of the complaint to Congress.

OK, this sounds serious – what did Trump do?

We don’t know at the moment, only that it was a phone call with an unidentified foreign leader that involved a “promise”.

What has Trump said?

The US president has issued his frequent critique that the story is “fake news” and asked whether anyone is “dumb enough” to believe he could have said something that could endanger the US.

Hasn’t he done something “dumb” like this before, though?

Yes. In 2017 Trump met with Russian officials at the White House with only a Russian photographer present, a potential breach of security.

This was also the same meeting in which he discussed classified information with the Russians, which threatened to reveal the identity of intelligence sources spying on Isis.

Has Trump said anything else?

Of course...

So what’s going to happen now?

House of Representatives Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, a Democrat, has sought to compel intelligence officials to disclose the full details of the complaint to Congress, which the Trump administration so far has refused to do.

A congressional source told Reuters the complaint was filed with the inspector general on August 12.

The source said it seemed unlikely to have been filed by someone at the Central Intelligence Agency, because the CIA has its own inspector general.

Schiff’s House panel was meeting with Atkinson in closed session on Thursday to discuss the complaint and has scheduled a hearing next week with Maguire.

In the session on Thursday, Atkinson told lawmakers he was unable to confirm or deny anything about the complaint, The New York Times reported, citing several unnamed sources.

Maguire is scheduled to testify before the committee on September 26.