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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

Updated 6 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Bipartisan police reform negotiations end without deal

Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) with Sens. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) in the Capitol in May 2021. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Bipartisan talks on reforming police tactics and accountability, prompted by George Floyd's murder in May 2020, have ended without a compromise, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), a key negotiator, said Wednesday.

Why it matters: Lawmakers, led by Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) and Sens. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Booker, had been working toward a bipartisan deal for months but things fell apart due to disagreements on qualified immunity and other issues.

Federal Reserve scales back expectations for economic recovery as Delta variant weighs

Fed chair Jerome Powell during a congressional hearing last year. (Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The Fed downgraded near-term expectations for the economy and the labor market, alongside hotter-than-expected inflation, in new estimates out on Wednesday.

Why it matters: It's the first time those closely-watched estimates reflect impact from the delta variant that's already rattled the labor market. Still, Fed chairman Jerome Powell said enough progress has been made to begin to pull back emergency-era measures that have supported the economy.

Biden speaks with Macron for first time since diplomatic crisis

President Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron have a conversation ahead of the NATO summit in Brussels, on June 14, 2021. Photo: Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

President Biden on Wednesday spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron for the first time since a diplomatic row erupted over a scrapped submarine order, per the White House.

Driving the news: Macron said that the French ambassador will return to Washington next week and will resume working with senior U.S. officials.