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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

In photos: D.C. and U.S. states on alert for pre-inauguration violence

National Guard troops stand behind security fencing with the dome of the U.S. Capitol Building behind them, on Jan. 16. Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Security has been stepped up in Washington, D.C., and state capitols across the U.S. as authorities brace for potential violence this weekend.

Driving the news: Following the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by some supporters of President Trump, the FBI has said there could be armed protests in D.C. and in all 50 state capitols in the run-up to President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration Wednesday.

12 hours ago - Politics & Policy

The new Washington

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Axios subject-matter experts brief you on the incoming administration's plans and team.

Rep. Lou Correa tests positive for COVID-19

Lou Correa. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Rep. Lou Correa (D-Calif.) announced on Saturday that he has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Why it matters: Correa is the latest Democratic lawmaker to share his positive test results after last week's deadly Capitol riot. Correa did not shelter in the designated safe zone with his congressional colleagues during the siege, per a spokesperson, instead staying outside to help Capitol Police.