President Donald Trump on Monday attacked the whistleblower at the center of the growing Ukraine scandal and House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, after promoting comments from a supportive pastor who told Fox News that impeaching the president would lead to a "Civil War-like fracture in this nation."
Trump's comments on Twitter came as he faces an impeachment inquiry in the House over a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in which he asked Zelenskiy to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden's family. The Trump administration, around the same time as that July conversation, placed a hold on hundreds of millions of dollars in Ukrainian military aid, only to release it earlier this month.
Download the NBC News app for full coverage of the impeachment inquiry
During a swearing-in ceremony for Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia on Monday, Trump continued to assert that the whistleblower, who has not been publicly identified, distorted the contents of his call with the Ukrainian leader. He also repeated his unfounded claim that Schiff "made up" words regarding the reconstructed transcript of the call released by the White House last week.
"The call was perfect," Trump told reporters. "When the whistleblower reported this, he made it sound terrible."
He later added, "Adam Schiff made up a phony call. He read it to Congress. He read it to the people of the United States. And it's a disgrace. This whole thing is a disgrace."
Trump in his tweets on Monday also called the whistleblower complaint at the center of the scandal "fake" and said it was "not holding up," even though it lined up with a record of the July 25 call between the two presidents that the White House released, was deemed credible by a Trump-appointed intelligence community inspector general, and was authored by a whistleblower who the Trump-appointed acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire told Congress last week had acted in "good faith."
Then Trump went after Schiff, who he said "illegally made up a FAKE & terrible statement, pretended it to be mine as the most important part of my call to the Ukrainian President, and read it aloud to Congress and the American people."
"It bore NO relationship to what I said on the call," Trump added. "Arrest for Treason?"
Though the remarks Trump was referring to, which Schiff made during the hearing with Maguire last week, did not line up verbatim with the detailed summary of the call released by the White House, they did mirror its description. Schiff himself made clear during the hearing that his remarks were "the essence" of what Trump said during the call.
Trump's attacks came after he promoted remarks Sunday night from the evangelical pastor and Fox News contributor Robert Jeffress — one of Trump's most prominent backers — during a Sunday interview on "Fox & Friends."
Jeffress, who leads a Baptist megachurch in Dallas, was asked to respond to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's comment Saturday that impeachment marks a "very sad time for our country," one that requires Americans being "somber" and "prayerful."
Jeffress said it was "hard to take" Pelosi's "call to prayer seriously," adding that evangelical Christians have "never" been "more angry over any issue than this attempt to illegitimately remove this president from office, overturn the 2016 election and negate the votes of millions of evangelicals in the process."
"And they know that the only impeachable offense President Trump has committed was beating Hillary Clinton in 2016," he claimed. "That’s the unpardonable sin for which the Democrats will never forgive him. And I do want to make this prediction this morning: If the Democrats are successful in removing the president from office, I’m afraid it will cause a Civil War-like fracture in this nation from which this country will never heal."
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., condemned Trump for promoting the remarks, calling them "beyond repugnant."
"I have visited nations ravaged by civil war," Kinzinger, who is a military veteran and a lieutenant colonel in the Air National Guard, tweeted. "@realDonaldTrump I have never imagined such a quote to be repeated by a President."
Jeffress is no stranger to controversy. During the 2012 election cycle, he said President Barack Obama was "paving the way for the future reign of the Antichrist." Additionally, Jeffress has said Islam promotes pedophilia, called Catholicism a "Babylonian mystery religion," and labeled Mormonism "a cult."
Trump faces a growing scandal over his actions involving Ukraine, which included the call to investigate Biden's son Hunter, who sat on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company that had previously been under investigation by that country's former top prosecutor. There has been no evidence of wrongdoing by either Biden.
The House launched the formal impeachment inquiry into the matter last week after the whistleblower complaint was made public. It detailed how White House officials were so concerned about what the president said in the call with Zelenskiy that they intervened to "lock down" the record of the conversation.
The whistleblower filed the complaint, which relied on the accounts of White House and other U.S. officials, out of a belief Trump was "using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country" in the 2020 election.