Republicans claim House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff knew about the complaint before it was filed.
Republican leaders, led by Donald Trump, have already begun spinning a report detailing how the whistleblower complaint that triggered a House impeachment inquiry was handled.
The New York Times reported on Wednesday that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) received "outlines" of the whistleblower complaint before the process formally began.
"The C.I.A. officer approached a House Intelligence Committee aide with his concerns about Mr. Trump only after he had had a colleague first convey them to the C.I.A.’s top lawyer," the Times reported, noting that, at that stage, the accusation "was vague."
"The House staff member, following the committee’s procedures, suggested the officer find a lawyer to advise him and meet with an inspector general, with whom he could file a whistle-blower complaint. The aide shared some of what the officer conveyed to Mr. Schiff," the outlet noted.
Schiff has since said that the procedure for whistleblowers was followed.
"When a whistleblower seeks guidance, staff advises them to get counsel and go to an [inspector general]. That’s what they’re supposed to do," he tweeted Wednesday afternoon. "Unlike a president pressing a foreign leader to dig up dirt on a political opponent. That’s not what a president is supposed to do. And we all know it."
Despite the clear language of the report and established whistleblower procedure, Republicans immediately began mischaracterizing the Times report, claiming it showed that Schiff — who has become Trump's number one target since the inquiry began — had early access to knowledge of the whistleblower complaint.
"Chairman Adam Schiff just got caught orchestrating with the whistleblower before the complaint was ever filed," House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy tweeted. "Democrats have rigged this process from the start."
Trump was less measured in his response. "SCHIFF IS A FRAUD!" he tweeted, posting a video of himself discussing the report during a press conference with the Finnish president earlier in the day.
"This is looking more & more like a deep state scheme," tweeted Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), the minority whip and McCarthy's second in command. "Schiff knew about the whistleblower complaint before it was filed & his team advised the whistleblower on how to proceed."
Other Republican members of Congress have also echoed McCarthy's allegation.
One of the Times reporters who broke the story corrected McCarthy on Twitter Wednesday afternoon.
"Not what the NYT reported," wrote reporter Matthew Rosenberg, in response to McCarthy's tweet. "The whistleblower went to an intel committee staffer with a vague account of the complaint, and was told to file through proper channels. Schiff personally never knew the whistleblower’s identity."
"That’s hardly 'orchestrating' the complaint," he added.
Trump's son, Eric Trump, also pushed the new talking point, describing the Times story as "the pure definition of corruption."
"Did [Schiff] write or influence the letter?" he tweeted.
Any new characterization of the whistleblower's complaint does not change the details of the call released by the Trump White House itself. A memorandum of that call shows Trump asking the Ukrainian government for a "favor" and to do "whatever you can" about former Vice President Biden.
According to the Federal Election Commission, it is illegal to solicit election help from a foreign national.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.