President Donald Trump on Thursday appeared to suggest that the person who passed on information about his phone call with Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky to a whistleblower should be executed, a striking escalation in rhetoric as the scandal over the July conversation between the two leaders continued to unfold.
"Very normal, healthy democracy we live in," tweeted The Young Turks host John Iadarola.
Trump's comments came during a private event at the Intercontinental Hotel in New York to mark the end of the United Nations General Assembly.
"I want to know who's the person who gave the whistleblower the information, because that's close to a spy," Trump said. "You know what we used to do in the old days, when we were smart, with spies and treason, right? We used to handle it a little differently than we do now."
Treason is a capital federal crime punishable by death. Spying is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
At a fundraiser right after the UN event, POTUS Took to the stage clutching paper that he waved, saying, “this is the call.” He was referring to his call with the Ukraine president https://t.co/95cmW6Fvy6— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) September 26, 2019
According to The New York Times, which broke the story, Trump's comments "stunned" some people in the audience. The president had choice words for the media as well:
Some in the crowd laughed, the person briefed on what took place said. The event was closed to reporters, and during his remarks, the president called the news media "scum" in addition to labeling them as crooked.
Later, on the tarmac at Joint Base Andrews, the president said that Democrats investigating his conduct should be barred from doing so.
"What these guys, the Democrats, are doing to this country is a disgrace," said Trump. "And it shouldn't be allowed."
"There should be a law of stopping it," the president added. "Maybe legally, through the courts."
Trump at Joint Base Andrews: "What these guys, Democrats, are doing to this country is a disgrace. And it shouldn't be allowed. There should be a law of stopping it. Maybe legally, through the courts. But they're going to tie up this country. We can't talk about gun regulations." pic.twitter.com/bYPkVcxyok— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 26, 2019
Trump is currently under an impeachment inquiry due to the phone call and the coverup. During a House Intelligence Committee hearing Thursday, Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire said that the whistleblower acted in good faith.
"I believe the whistleblower did the right thing," said Maguire.
At the hearing, Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) declared the scandal shows Trump is "unfit for office."
"The whistleblower complaint has exposed a criminal effort to extort political dirty work from a foreign government," said Castro, "and a massive cover-up orchestrated by the White House."