Washington — The whistleblower at the center of the impeachment inquiry into President Trump approached a staffer from the House Intelligence Committee for guidance before filing a complaint about the president's call with the leader of Ukraine, the committee said Wednesday.
The New York Times first reported the whistleblower reached out to a committee staffer after unsuccessfully trying to raise concerns internally.
Patrick Boland, a spokesman for the committee and its chairman Adam Schiff, said in a statement that committee staff advised the individual to obtain counsel and approach the intelligence community inspector general (ICIG), which the whistleblower did.
"At no point did the Committee review or receive the complaint in advance," Boland said.
Spokespeople for the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee, without commenting on the specifics of the Ukraine case, told CBS News it would generally be standard practice for the intelligence committees to tell a potential whistleblower to hire an attorney and file a complaint with an agency inspector general or the ICIG.
Mr. Trump nonetheless seized on The New York Times report during a press conference at the White House on Wednesday, mischaracterizing it to claim Schiff knew about the whistleblower complaint before it was filed August 12. The president went as far as to claim Schiff "helped write it."
Mark Zaid, an attorney for the whistleblower, said in a statement that his client never discussed the complaint with Schiff.
"I can unequivocally state that neither any member of the legal team nor the whistleblower has ever met or spoken with Congressman Schiff about this matter," Zaid said.
Zaid also said "there was no contact between the legal team and Congress until nearly a month after the whistleblower complaint was submitted to the Intelligence Community's Inspector General," referring to a letter sent to the Intelligence Committee on September 9.
Later Wednesday, Zaid said his client drafted the complaint with no input from the legal team, a detail first reported by ABC News.
"We can absolutely confirm that the Whistleblower drafted the Complaint entirely on their own," Zaid said in a statement. "Andrew Bakaj, the lead legal counsel, provided guidance on process but was not involved in the drafting of the document and did not review it in advance."
Zaid said no one on the legal team had seen the complaint until it was released by the committee, and added that "no Member or congressional staff had any input into or reviewed the Complaint before it was submitted" to the inspector general.
On September 17, Schiff appeared on MSNBC and was asked: "Have you heard from the whistleblower? Do you want to hear from the whistleblower?"
"We have not spoken directly with the whistleblower," Schiff replied. "We would like to, but I'm sure the whistleblower has concerns that he has not been advised, as the law requires, by the inspector general or the director of national intelligence, just as to how he is to communicate with Congress ... But yes, we would love to talk directly with the whistleblower."
A committee official on Wednesday conceded Schiff "could have been more clear" but said the chairman "was referring to the Committee officially interviewing the whistleblower, and himself personally."
The House Intelligence Committee is working to arrange a voluntary interview with the whistleblower, on the condition that the individual's attorneys are granted security clearances to accompany their client to the meeting. A person familiar with the matter said the security clearance process was proceeding along a "normal path" and that no problems were anticipated. The person did not provide a timeline for when any clearances might be issued.
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