The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

‘The president of the United States is the whistleblower,’ Stephen Miller says

On Sept. 29, President Trump's personal lawyer and other Republicans criticized a whistleblower complaint, while Democrats insisted on its gravity. (Video: Sarah Parnass/The Washington Post)

White House senior adviser Stephen Miller said Sunday that President Trump is the true whistleblower, days after the release of a seven-page complaint in which a government whistleblower alleged that Trump had misused his office for personal gain, endangered national security and tried to keep it a secret.

Miller made the claim during an at-times heated interview on “Fox News Sunday.”

“The president of the United States is the whistleblower, and this individual is a saboteur trying to undermine a democratically elected government,” Miller said.

His defense of Trump came on the same day that Tom Bossert, a former Trump homeland security adviser, said he was “deeply disturbed” by the implications of the president’s recently reported actions.

In his Fox appearance, Miller dodged several questions from host Chris Wallace about allegations surrounding the president’s actions, such as Trump’s decision to use not the federal government but rather his personal attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani, to obtain information on the activities of former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter in Ukraine.

Miller also declined to answer when asked by Wallace to outline how, in his view, the Bidens broke any laws.

Hunter Biden served for nearly five years on the board of Burisma, Ukraine’s largest private gas company, whose owner came under scrutiny by Ukrainian prosecutors for possible abuse of power and unlawful enrichment. Hunter Biden was not accused of any wrongdoing in the investigation.

The Fact Checker unravels what happened when Trump tried to force an investigation into the false rumor about then-Vice President Joe Biden and Ukraine. (Video: The Washington Post)

As vice president, Joe Biden pressured Ukraine to fire the top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, who Biden and other Western officials said was not sufficiently pursuing corruption cases. At the time, the investigation into Burisma was dormant, according to former Ukrainian and U.S. officials.

House Democrats have begun an impeachment inquiry into Trump’s actions following the release last week of the whistleblower complaint as well as a rough transcript of a July phone call in which Trump repeatedly urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden.

Among those expressing alarm Sunday was Bossert, a rare official with ties to Trump to venture criticism of the president.

Bossert said he was “deeply disturbed” by the implications of Trump’s call to Zelensky and strongly criticized the president for seemingly furthering an unfounded theory that cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike played a role in shielding emails sent by Trump’s 2016 Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, and circulating allegations of Russian hacking.

The U.S. intelligence community has concluded that the Russians did, in fact, hack Democratic sources in an effort to swing the election to Trump.

“That conspiracy theory has got to go,” Bossert said on ABC News’s “This Week,” explaining that Trump was motivated to spread the “completely debunked” theory because he had “not gotten his pound of flesh yet” over accusations that he had Russian help in winning the 2016 election. “They have to stop with that. It cannot continue to be repeated in our discourse. … If he continues to focus on that white whale, it’s going to bring him down.”

But Bossert said he was not convinced that Trump had leveraged U.S. aid to Ukraine for political dirt, noting that the president had other potential legitimate reasons to withhold the aid.

“I hope that everyone can sift through the evidence and be very careful, as I’ve seen a lot of rush to judgment this week,” he said. “That said, it is a bad day and a bad week for this president and for this country if he is asking for political dirt on an opponent.”

On Sunday, both sides dug in as the scrutiny on the president intensifies.

In a combative appearance on “This Week,” Giuliani used the platform to air uncorroborated allegations that the Ukrainian government conspired with the administration of then-President Barack Obama and Clinton’s presidential campaign to surface information damaging to Trump in the midst of the 2016 presidential election, as well as allegations of corruption surrounding the activities of Hunter Biden.

Giuliani is named in the whistleblower complaint and in Trump’s phone call with Zelensky as being a key intermediary in a back-channel effort to dig up evidence on those allegations.

“I am proud of what I did,” Giuliani said. “And I am proud of having uncovered what will turn out to be a massive pay-for-play scheme.”

Host George Stephanopoulous challenged Giuliani throughout the interview, questioning claims from Giuliani that have been contradicted elsewhere.

At one point, when asked whether he would cooperate with the House Intelligence Committee’s probe, Giuliani initially said he would not unless its leadership changed — calling the panel’s chairman, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), “illegitimate” and accusing him of having “already prejudged the case.”

But Giuliani then backtracked and said he would “consider it,” based on the direction of Trump: “I have to be guided by my client, frankly,” Giuliani said. “I’m a lawyer. It’s his privilege, not mine. If he decides that he wants me to testify, of course I’ll testify.”

Schiff, appearing in a separate “This Week” interview, disputed Giuliani’s characterization.

“He seems to think that I’m the judge and jury here. My role here is to do the investigation, to make sure the facts some out,” Schiff said. “What we have seen already is damning.”

Schiff added that his panel has reached an agreement to secure testimony from the whistleblower and expects to hear from the individual “very soon” pending the granting of a security clearance.

Giuliani was more subdued in a separate appearance on Fox News Channel’s “Sunday Morning Futures,” during which host Maria Bartiromo pressed him on criticism from some Republicans that his frequent television appearances were not helping the president.

“What am I supposed to do, keep silent?” Giuliani asked.

Republicans on the Sunday morning news shows also redoubled their efforts to discredit the unidentified whistleblower and sought to keep the focus on the Bidens.

On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio), the ranking Republican on the House Oversight Committee, referred to an initial finding by the intelligence community inspector general stating that while the complaint was credible, the whistleblower had an “arguable political bias.”

“He had no firsthand knowledge … and he has a political bias,’’ Jordan said. “That should tell us something about this guy who came forward with this claim.’’

On “Fox News Sunday,” Miller disputed the use of the word “whistleblower” to describe the person who raised the alarm about Trump’s actions. He argued that “this is a deep-state operative, pure and simple” — even though Trump’s acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, said in congressional testimony last week that he believes the whistleblower “is operating in good faith and has followed the law.”

“I think it’s unfortunate that the media continues to describe this individual as a whistleblower, an honorific that this individual most certainly does not deserve,” Miller said. “A partisan hit job does not make you a whistleblower just because you go through the Whistleblower Protection Act.”

Miller also echoed Trump’s suggestion that “the behavior of this individual is close to a spy.” And he dismissed the whistleblower complaint as a “seven-page little Nancy Drew novel.”

“It drips with condescension, righteous indignation and contempt for the president,” he said.

Democrats argued that the documents released by the Trump administration last week reveal that the president was misusing his office.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) said the president’s call clearly showed an abuse of power that justified impeachment proceedings. In an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union,” he invoked a line from “The Godfather,” saying Trump used a “high-pressure tactic’’ by asking for an investigation of the Bidens.

“It was an offer that the Ukrainian president could not refuse,’’ Jeffries said.