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Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Trump said Thursday at a private event in New York that the whistleblower whose complaint is at the heart of a controversy involving Ukraine is "almost a spy," reports the New York Times and Los Angeles Times.

"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. 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. 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."
— President Trump, via the Los Angeles Times

The LA Times later posted audio of Trump's comments from inside the room:

The big picture, per Axios politics editor Margaret Talev: Now and in times past, Trump has used language to suggest he wants to retaliate against people who don't do what he wants or question his actions.

  • By raising the complaint via an anonymous, statutory method rather than a media leak, the whistleblower seems to be trying to avoid some of the blowback experienced by past Trump enemies, like former FBI Director James Comey.
  • The whistleblower's anonymity keeps the focus on their concerns — and not on their background or intentions.
  • Not knowing their identity shields them from the full intensity of Trump's retaliation and forces Republicans and Democrats to take the complaint seriously.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Dave Lawler, author of World
52 mins ago - World

Globetrotting climate envoy Kerry makes Biden team’s first visit to China

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

John Kerry became the first senior Biden administration official to touch down in China this week. He's also been the first to sit down with a string of world leaders.

Why it matters: Kerry may no longer be secretary of state, but you'd be forgiven for thinking otherwise after a glance at his calendar. The unusual role could make Kerry a foreign policy force multiplier for President Biden, or potentially a source of mixed messages.

Chicago releases video of fatal police shooting of 13-year-old boy

A small memorial is seen on April 15 in Chicago where 13-year-old Adam Toledo was shot and killed by a police officer in March. Photo: Kamil Krzaczynski/Getty Images

Chicago's independent police review board on Thursday released the body camera footage of an officer's fatal shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo on March 29.

The big picture: Tension continues to rise nationwide in response to police misconduct and racism. Thursday's footage release comes days after officer Kim Potter fatally shot Daunte Wright in a traffic stop near Minneapolis, where the trial of Derek Chauvin, a former police officer accused of murdering George Floyd, is ongoing.