President Trump calls public impeachment testimony a 'joke'

Speaking to reporters at the White House just moments after the first day of public testimony concluded, the president brushed off the hearing as all "third-hand" information.

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By Lauren Egan

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump called the House impeachment inquiry a "joke" on Wednesday shortly after the first day of public testimony and said he still wanted to learn the identity of the whistleblower whose complaint sparked the investigation.

"I hear it's a joke. I haven't watched. I haven't watched for one minute because I've been with the president, which is much more important, as far as I am concerned," Trump said, speaking to reporters at the White House alongside Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. "This is a sham, and it shouldn't be allowed."

"I want to find out who is the whistleblower, and because the whistleblower gave a lot of very incorrect information, including my call with the president of Ukraine, which was a perfect call and highly appropriate," Trump continued.

He also criticized Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community's inspector general, or IG, for his decision to report the whistleblower's complaint to Congress as credible. The New York Times reported on Tuesday that he had privately discussed firing Atkinson for sharing the information.

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"I want to find out why the IG, why would he have presented that, when in fact, all he had to do is check the call itself and he would've seen it," Trump said.

Trump said he had heard that the public testimony from Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent and the acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, William Taylor, was "all third-hand information," echoing pushback from Hill Republicans.

Trump also said he could release the record of a previous call he had with Ukraine in the spring as early as Thursday. The call at the heart of the impeachment investigation occurred over the summer, on July 25.

"I'm going to be releasing — I think on Thursday — a second call, which actually was the first of the two, and you'll make a determination as to what you think there," Trump said.

A senior White House official told NBC News earlier in the day that Trump spent the morning in the Oval Office holding meetings before Erdogan arrived. Trump appeared to be following along with the inquiry, however, retweeting Republican allies who came to his defense.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham wrote Wednesday morning on Twitter that the public hearing was "not only boring" but also "a colossal waste of taxpayer time & money." She added that Trump "is working right now" and that Democrats "should follow his lead."

Taylor revealed on Wednesday that he knew of a government employee who overheard Trump ask Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, on the phone about the "investigations" into former Vice President Joe Biden and his family. This phone conversation had not previously been known.

"I know nothing about that. First time I've heard," Trump told reporters Wednesday afternoon. "In any event, it's more second-hand information."