President calls whistleblower 'close to a spy' and press 'scum'
US President Donald Trump used a closed-door gathering with US diplomats in New York to attack Democratic rival Joe Biden and disparage a whistle-blower complaint over his controversial phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy now at the heart of an impeachment inquiry.
"We're at war," Mr Trump said, referring to the whistle-blower in a 15-minute video obtained by Bloomberg News. "These people are sick. They're sick. I want to know who's the person, who's the person who gave the whistle-blower the information? Because that's close to a spy," he said.
He added what appeared to be a thinly veiled threat: "You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart? Right? The spies and treason, we used to handle it a little differently than we do now."
He called the whistle-blower "highly partisan".
Mr Trump's address to the US mission to the UN wandered freely from Mr Biden to the 2016 election, from coal miners to the size of Democratic Representative Adam Schiff's neck: "He's got a neck about this big," the president said as he pressed his index finger to his thumb. "He's got shirts that are too big because you can't buy shirts that are that small. He was never a coal miner, let's put it that way."
The White House had set up the guest list for the meet and greet, one source said. At one point, Mr Trump said his only predecessor to appear more presidential than he was Abraham Lincoln.
"I'm the most presidential except for possibly Abe Lincoln when he wore the hat. That was tough to beat," Mr Trump said. He added, "I have better hair than him."
Mr Trump repeated his claims that Joe Biden helped his son, Hunter Biden, improperly win millions in dollars in business from Ukraine and China. Those claims have been at the centre of the controversy over the president's call with Mr Zelenskiy in which he implores the Ukrainian leader to investigate the Bidens. He referred to the former vice president as "Sleepy Joe Biden who's dumb as a rock".
Mr Trump said he keeps alive the rumours among Democrats and the media that he would disregard presidential term limits because it drives them "crazy".
He also disparaged the media coverage of his meeting in New York on Wednesday with Mr Zelenskiy, and assailed a familiar target, CNN.
"You know these animals in the press. They're animals. Some of the worst human beings you'll ever meet," Mr Trump said. "They're scum. Many of them are scum.
"Basically, that person never saw the report, never saw the call, he never saw the call, heard something and decided that he or she, or whoever the hell they saw - they're almost a spy," Mr Trump said of the whistle-blower.
The president also spoke of his "love" of coal miners and that "we gave them back their jobs". He joked about how they didn't want to be retrained for other jobs. Mr Trump said he had asked miners whether they wanted to work in technology and "they almost threw up all over the place".
"Can you imagine miners with massive arms, shoulders ... in a line with little tiny widgets?" he added. "They're putting little tiny computer parts together. These big strong guys? They don't want to be doing that."