During an Oval Office meeting with visiting Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday, President Donald Trump used the presence of reporters to downplay news stories about an intelligence official who made a whistleblower complaint regarding a promise he made to a foreign leader. Multiple mainstream news organizations -- including CNN, ABC News, and The Hill -- then uncritically repeated his dubious and baseless claims on their Twitter accounts, spreading Trump’s misinformation to their audiences.
No relevant context made it into the following tweets posted by multiple news organizations reporting on Trump’s comments in the Oval Office. Instead, these outlets repeated Trump’s baseless claims that the whistleblower is “partisan,” his attacks on the media for even covering the story, and his dubious insistence that it “doesn’t matter” what he may have said to foreign leaders.
On Wednesday, The Washington Post reported that a U.S. intelligence official considered a “promise” Trump had made to an unnamed foreign leader to be so troubling that the official filed a formal whistleblower complaint with an inspector general. According to the Post, the intelligence community’s inspector general “determined that the complaint was credible and troubling enough to be considered a matter of ‘urgent concern,’ a legal threshold that requires notification of congressional oversight committees.” But Trump’s acting director of national intelligence has refused to notify the appropriate members of Congress. The Post reported on Thursday that the interaction in question centered on Ukraine, which Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, has pressured through in-person and phone meetings “to pursue investigations into political opponents of Mr. Trump.” Late Thursday night, Giuliani confirmed in a CNN interview that he had “ask[ed] Ukraine to look into Joe Biden.”