Opinion by Frida Ghitis
Updated 11:31 PM ET, Thu September 19, 2019
(CNN) What exactly could President Donald Trump have done that, according to a Washington Post report later confirmed by CNN, drove a US intelligence official to file a formal whistleblower complaint over communications between Trump and an unidentified foreign leader, triggering a high-stakes face-off between the House Intelligence Committee and the acting Director of National Intelligence?
The details remain secret, but the information we have already suggests that this situation is even more appalling than what we have seen until now from the Trump administration.
Here’s how we know that this is not a run-of-the-mill Trump outrage.
First, since he took office, the President has routinely acted in shocking ways. But this is the first time his actions have prompted high-level figures in the intelligence community, including a Trump appointee, to take unprecedented action.
The intelligence official who filed the whistleblower complaint has witnessed Trump’s behavior before. This time, the official decided it was so far beyond the pale that it was time to take action.
The official went through the exceedingly rare whistleblower process and on August 12 handed to Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson a formal complaint. Atkinson, who was appointed by Trump, reviewed the complaint and found that it met the legal threshold to call it an “urgent concern,” an even more uncommon occurrence.