The lawyers for a whistleblower whose complaint triggered a US presidential impeachment inquiry say Donald Trump’s words are endangering their client.
Since the transcript of his call with the president of Ukraine was revealed, Mr Trump has called for the anonymous whistleblower to be unmasked.
Democrats say the whistleblower will testify to Congress “very soon” once steps are taken to protect identity.
Mr Trump has suggested his opponents could be arrested for “treason”.
A transcript of a call Mr Trump made to Ukraine’s new President Volodymyr Zelensky shows he urged him to investigate discredited corruption allegations against former vice-president and 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden as well as his son.
The call is now at the centre of an effort by Democrats that could see Mr Trump expelled from office, but doing so would require members of his Republican party to turn against him.
On Sunday, Democratic House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said Congress was finalising plans to have the whistleblower testify to Congress in private.
What did the lawyers say?
The letter from the whistleblower’s legal team – in which the lawyers call attention to Mr Trump’s language – was sent to Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire on Saturday, and made public on Sunday, .
“The events of the past week have heightened our concerns that our client’s identity will be disclosed publicly and that, as a result, our client will be put in harm’s way,” wrote lawyer Andrew Bakaj.
The letter specifically mentions Mr Trump’s call last week for the whistleblower to be identified, as well as the person that supplied the whistleblower with information about the call.
It quotes Mr Trump as saying: “I want to know who’s the person that gave the whistleblower, who’s the person that gave the whistleblower the information, because that’s close to a spy.
“You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart? Right? With spies and treason, right? We used to handle them a little differently than we do now.”
The letter also references a $50,000 (£40,600) “bounty” that two conservative Trump supporters have offered as a “reward” for information about the whistleblower.
“Unfortunately, we expect this situation to worsen, and to become even more dangerous for our client and any other whistleblowers, as Congress seeks to investigate this matter,” Mr Bakaj’s letter adds.
What is impeachment?
- Impeachment is a political process by which Congress can remove a president from office
- If the House of Representatives votes to pass articles of impeachment, the Senate is forced to hold a trial
- A Senate vote requires a two-thirds majority, unlikely given that Mr Trump’s party controls the chamber
- Only two US presidents in history – Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson – have been impeached
What has Mr Trump said?
On Sunday evening Mr Trump retweeted a Fox News guest who warned that if Mr Trump is removed from office it will spark “a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal”.
Illinois Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger condemned Mr Trump’s tweet as “repugnant”.
In came as part of a massive Twitter volley against his critics, and insistence that Mr Trump meet the whistleblower, who he called “my accuser”.
“I want to meet not only my accuser… but also the person who illegally gave this information, which was largely incorrect, to the ‘Whistleblower.’ Was this person SPYING on the US President? Big Consequences!”
On Monday, Mr Trump resumed his Twitter campaign against the whistleblower, as well as Congressman Schiff.
“I want Schiff questioned at the highest level for Fraud & Treason,” wrote Mr Trump.
What is the impeachment inquiry about?
In a complaint filed last month, a whistleblower from the intelligence community reported his “urgent concern” that the president had used his office to “solicit interference from a foreign country” in the 2020 US election.
The impeachment inquiry launched on Tuesday now focuses specifically on Mr Trump’s call to the Ukrainian president about the discredited Biden allegations.
Democrats accuse Mr Trump of illegally seeking foreign help in the hope of smearing Mr Biden.
Mr Trump is also accused of using military aid for Ukraine as a bargaining tool.
Trump impeachment: Whistleblower ‘endangered’ by Trump criticism