(CNSNews.com) - Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) told reporters on Thursday he does not know the "specifics" of the "urgent" whistleblower complaint that Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire has so far withheld from Congress.
"I don't know what the complaint has to say in terms of its specifics," Schiff told a news conference on Thursday after a four-hour, closed-door hearing with Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, who deemed the whistleblower complaint "urgent."
"But I can tell you that the speculation about whether this involves a presidential communication -- even if it involved a presidential communication, and I don't know at this point -- that doesn't mean that the (executive) privilege covers it, if that communication is about a crime or fraud," Schiff said.
Schiff has said he will go to court, if necessary, to force the release of the complaint to Congress.
The Washington Post, which broke the story, said the whistleblower complaint made by someone in the intelligence community involves a "promise" President Trump supposedly made to Ukraine. Trump held a July telephone call with the new president of Ukraine, a few weeks before the whistleblower complaint was filed.
By Friday morning, speculation swirled that this has something to do with the Trump administration urging the new president of Ukraine to look into alleged corruption by former Vice President Joe Biden, now one of Trump's potential Democrat rivals in the 2020 election.
(CNN's Alisyn Camerota framed it this way Friday morning: "So did President Trump threaten to withhold billions in aid from Ukraine for political gain?" Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, speaking hypothetically, told CNN on Friday morning: “[I]t is unprecedented for an American president to contact a foreign government for the purpose of initiating an investigation of a political rival.” And Rep. Jackie Speier, a Democrat on the House intelligence committee, told CNN Friday morning: "What we know is zero. So if in fact what is being reported is true, that means that the president of the United States is using taxpayer money to try and have opposition research for his 2020 campaign determined by how much money he gives to a foreign country.")
Enter Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, who went on several cable news shows Thursday night to make the case against Biden:
Giuliani noted that for two years, "there have been allegations from Joe Biden's own mouth," and Giuliani quoted Biden as saying, 'I told the president of the Ukraine you're not going to get your $1.2 billion loan guarantee unless you fire the prosecutor." The Ukrainian prosecutor in question was investigating Biden's son Hunter for corruption.
Giuliani told "Fox News," "What I was urging the Ukrainian government to do was not to do something embarrassing to Joe Biden. I was urging the government of the Ukraine to investigate extraordinarily serious allegations of corruption."
Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe set the speculation swirling Thursday night in an interview with CNN's "Anderson Cooper."
McCabe was discussing why the Acting Director of National Intelligence did not refer the whistleblower complaint to Congress, which normally happens, but instead involved the Justice Department:
So for instance, we don't know this, this is speculation. But if the department and the dni made the conclusion that the president's conduct was potentially criminal conduct, they could then argue that's not an intelligence matter and therefore not under the purview of the DNI.
Now a scenario in which that might take place could be if, for instance, the president had a conversation with a foreign leader in which he promised some sort of assistance to that country for, let's say, return of assistance in his re-election campaign. That, of course, would likely be criminal activity and could be qualified by the Department of Justice as not an intelligence matter.
"Right," Anderson Cooper replied. "We should just point out again, we do not know the nature of this."
"We do not," McCabe agreed.
Schiff is particularly annoyed that the whistleblower complaint was withheld from Congress, as he told PBS Thursday night:
We got answers to the fact that this is, for example, the first time that a director of national intelligence has ever withheld a complaint from Congress. Whether the inspector general finds it credible or not credible, the practice has always been to provide it to Congress.
Here, it was found to be credible, it was found to be urgent. And it is unprecedented to be deprived this way.
It was also clear from the testimony that the Department of Justice has weighed in, in a way that it never has before in a whistle-blower complaint. It's also clear, I think, that the issue is not the classification of the intelligence. Many people have said, well, other presidents have asserted that they have the right to declassify intelligence or provide classified information to the Congress.
That's apparently not the issue either. And so the question is, why is this being withheld from Congress? Is this an effort to cover up impropriety? Who does the complaint involve?
And, most seriously, if this is urgent, and they're not allowing Congress to deal with it, and they're not allowing the inspector general to deal with it, then it's going unaddressed and we're at risk.
"Forget Biden," Giuliani told Fox News's Laura Ingraham Thursday night.
"The vice president of the United States bribed a foreign official, isn't that a matter of grave concern to this country? Whether it's Joe Biden or not? I will tell you what Joe Biden did out of his own mouth.
"Joe Biden said to the president of the Ukraine, you're not going to get your $1.2 billion loan guarantee unless you fire the prosecutor. The crime of bribery is defined in the Ukraine, as well as all of the world, as the following: You cannot offer something of value in exchange for official action. The something of value is the $1.2 billion loan guarantee. The official action is telling him he's got to fire the prosecutor. That's a crime. Prima fascia," Giuliani said.
"We have a motive. The prosecutor was investigating Joe Biden's son for over two years, taking $5 million in money that went from Ukraine to Latvia, to Cyprus, to Joe Biden's little crazy company that he had. Which follows $1.5 billion that went into that same company from China. The partners of the company are Joe Biden's son, John Kerry's son, and "Whitey" Bulger's nephew. I didn't make that up, Laura."
Appearing with CNN's Chris Cuomo Thursday night, an angry Giuliani said this all began as he investigated "a tremendous amount of collusion" between the Hillary Clinton campaign, the DNC and Ukraine: In the course of that investigation, "I found out this incredible story about Joe Biden, that he bribed the president of the Ukraine in order to fire a prosecutor who was investigating his son.
"That is an astounding scandal of major proportions which all of you have covered up for about five or six months," Giuliani told Cuomo. "You've also covered up the fact that Biden and his son took $1.5 billion out of China. And that's why the president thinks you're a corrupt media, because if this were President Trump and Donald Trump Jr. and they took millions of dollars from a corrupt oligarch in the Ukraine and they took $1.5 billion out of China while the president was negotiating with China, you would be screaming and yelling and going crazy about how corrupt it is.
"And because it's Joe Biden and he's a protected Democrat, you don't cover it. This scandal is a scandal of major proportions," Giuliani said.
Cuomo accused Giuliani of "going after political opponents of Mr. Trump."
"I'm the president's attorney," Giuliani explained. "Joe Biden is presumed innocent. But somebody has got to investigate him..."
"Did you ask the Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden?" Cuomo asked.
"No, actually I didn't," Giuliani said. "I asked Ukraine to investigate the allegations that there was interference in the election of 2016 by the Ukrainians for the benefit of Hillary Clinton for which there already--"
"You never asked anything about Hunter Biden?" Cuomo interrupted. "You never asked anything about Joe Biden to the prosecutor?"
"The only thing I asked is to get to the bottom of how it was that the guy (Ukrainian prosecutor) who was appointed dismissed the case against Antac (a George Soros group).
"So you did ask Ukraine to look into Joe Biden," Cuomo said.
"Of course I did," Giuliani said.
"You just said you didn't," Cuomo noted.
"No, I asked them to look into the allegations which related to my client, which tangentially involved Joe Biden in a massive bribery scheme. Not unlike what he did in China. Explain how the kid (Hunter) got $1.5 billion from China."
The two men argued about whether Giuliani had contradicted himself, and Giuliani tried to clarify: "What I said is this. I asked them to investigate the allegations that relate to the false charges against the president of the United States. Those allegations tangentially involve Biden --" Giuliani started to say.
After some insults back and forth, Giuliani continued: "These are crimes of major proportions, and because they're Democrats, you won't cover it...And you were standing up for two systems of justice. Joe Biden can be involved in bribery. Joe Biden's son can get $1.5 billion from China and you won't cover it. And you want to cover some ridiculous charge that I urged the Ukrainian government to investigate corruption. Well, I did and I'm proud of it."
"Did the president (Trump) ask the president of Ukraine to do the same thing?" Cuomo asked.
Biden's eventual answer was this: "I have no idea. I never asked him that. I don't know if he did, and I wouldn't care if he did. He had every right to do it if he was the president of the United States. He had every right to say to the Ukrainian president, we have two outstanding allegations of massive corruption--"
"Did he (Trump) ask you to do what you were doing?" Cuomo cut in.
"No," Giuliani said. "I did what I did on my own. I told him (Trump) about it afterwards because I'm his lawyer and know how to investigate."
House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) discouraged people from jumping to conclusions on Thursday:
"Look, I know the media always wants to rush when they think something sensationalist, and 9 times out of 10 we find out a lot of that is not true. I think the New York Times has experienced that just in the last week. This is not something I'd ever see the president doing, and I--I would instead of jumping to conclusions, actually get the facts first," he told a news conference.