President Donald Trump denounced the whistleblower complaint Thursday morning, suggesting the complaint was treasonous and the officials who provided information to the whistleblower were similar to spies.

“I want to know who’s the person who gave the whistle-blower the information because that’s close to a spy,” Trump said. “You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart with spies and treason, right? We used to handle it a little differently than we do now.”

The comments, which came during a private event at the Intercontinental Hotel with U.S. diplomatic officials, prompted a few chuckles but left most of the audience shocked, according to a partial audio recording of the event.

“That kind of incitement to violence is only going to chill other witnesses when they come forward. And that is its very intent, to intimidate the witnesses,” said House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-California) who initially raised the alarm about the classified whistleblower complaint.

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Trump has been fiercely defending himself after the whistleblower complaint stating that the president had an inappropriate conversation with the Ukrainian president and then tried to “lock down” the call record, was made public.

“Sounding more and more like the so-called Whistleblower isn’t a Whistleblower at all,” Trump tweeted Friday morning. “In addition, all second hand information that proved to be so inaccurate that there may not have even been somebody else, a leaker or spy feeding it to him or her? A partisan operative?”

The whistleblower, whose identity is unknown, acknowledged in the complaint that he or she was not a direct witness to the July 25 phone call between Trump and the Ukrainian president.

“I found my colleagues’ accounts to be credible because, in almost all cases, multiple officials recounted fact patterns that were consistent with one another,” wrote the whistleblower. He or she went on to say, “Multiple White House officials with direct knowledge of the call [on July 25 between Trump and Ukraine’s president]  informed me that, after an initial exchange of pleasantries, 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, along with the White House’s non-verbatim transcript of the call, caused outrage among Democrats and led Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) to launch a formal impeachment inquiry.

Former Central Intelligence Agency operations officer Evan McMullin tweeted Friday morning that “Dictators lie about everything” and “threaten to execute whistleblowers.”

Trump is steadfast in his belief he did nothing wrong tweeting that, “‘IT WAS A PERFECT CONVERSATION WITH UKRAINE PRESIDENT!'”

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