Burgeoning whistleblower scandal over ‘urgent’ national security threat in White House

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Last Friday, Politico reported House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff alleged that the nation’s top intelligence official is illegally withholding a whistleblower complaint, possibly to protect President Donald Trump or senior White House officials. Schiff accuses top intel official of illegally withholding ‘urgent’ whistleblower complaint:

Schiff issued a subpoena for the complaint, accusing acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire of taking extraordinary steps to withhold the complaint from Congress, even after the intel community’s inspector general characterized the complaint as credible and of “urgent concern.”

“A Director of National Intelligence has never prevented a properly submitted whistleblower complaint that the [inspector general] determined to be credible and urgent from being provided to the congressional intelligence committees. Never,” Schiff said in a statement. “This raises serious concerns about whether White House, Department of Justice or other executive branch officials are trying to prevent a legitimate whistleblower complaint from reaching its intended recipient, the Congress, in order to cover up serious misconduct.”

Schiff indicated that he learned the matter involved “potentially privileged communications by persons outside the Intelligence Community,” raising the specter that it is “being withheld to protect the President or other Administration officials.” In addition, Schiff slammed Maguire for consulting the Justice Department about the whistleblower complaint “even though the statute does not provide you discretion to review, appeal, reverse, or countermand in any way the [inspector general’s] independent determination, let alone to involve another entity within the Executive Branch.”

“The Committee can only conclude, based on this remarkable confluence of factors, that the serious misconduct at issue involves the President of the United States and/or other senior White House or Administration officials,” Schiff wrote in a letter to Maguire on Friday.

Since then, the Washington Post added, Trump’s communications with foreign leader are part of whistleblower complaint that spurred standoff between spy chief and Congress, former officials say:

The whistleblower complaint that has triggered a tense showdown between the U.S. intelligence community and Congress involves President Trump’s communications with a foreign leader, according to two former U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

Trump’s interaction with the foreign leader included a “promise” that was regarded as so troubling that it prompted an official in the U.S. intelligence community to file a formal whistleblower complaint with the inspector general for the intelligence community, said the former officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

It was not immediately clear which foreign leader Trump was speaking with or what he pledged to deliver, but his direct involvement in the matter has not been previously disclosed. It raises new questions about the president’s handling of sensitive information and may further strain his relationship with U.S. spy agencies. One former official said the communication was a phone call.

NBC News added that Trump’s “Injustice” Department under Attorney General William “Coverup” Barr is behind this violation of law and defiance of Congress. Trump communication reportedly at center of whistleblower complaint:

A Justice Department official said it was the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel that gave advice to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on whether to disclose the complaint. Asked whether Attorney General Bill Barr was personally involved, the official declined to comment.

Today’s closed door House Intelligence Committee hearing with the Inspector General Michael Atkinson shed little light on the nature and details of the whistleblower complaint as the Inspector General testified That DOJ, DNI Blocked Help To Trump Whistleblower:

The Intelligence Community Inspector General told Congress he was being blocked from giving a whistleblower a way to securely tell the House about allegations that reportedly deal with a promise the President made to a foreign leader, according to a newly released batch of letters.

The House Intelligence Committee released two letters on Thursday written by ICIG Michael Atkinson. The first letter — sent on Sept. 9 — discloses the existence of a whistleblower complaint while the second — sent on Sept. 17 — tells lawmakers that Atkinson has “not been authorized” to help the whistleblower disclose information, or to provide “basic information” about the complaint to Congress.

[Read the pair of letters from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence about the complaint.]

Saying the substance of the complaint “relates to one of the most significant and important of the DNI’s responsibilities to the American people,” Atkinson described in the Sept. 17 letter “disagreement” between himself, the Justice Department, and acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire.

“I have requested authorization from the Acting DNI to disclose, at the very least, the general subject matter of the Complainant’s allegations to the congressional intelligence committees,” the letter reads. “To date, however, I have not been authorized to disclose even that basic information to you, in addition to the important information provided by the Complainant that is also being kept from the congressional intelligence committees.”

By law, Maguire is required to transmit complaints that meet a standard of “urgent concern” to Congress after review by the ICIG. In this case, reporting indicates, the matter of “urgent concern” refers to an alleged “promise” that President Trump made to an unnamed foreign leader.

The acting DNI is also required to provide guidance to the whistleblower on how to securely transmit information directly to Congress upon request, in a process that goes through the ICIG.

In this case, Atkinson wrote, Maguire has refused to provide information on how the whistleblower can securely pass sensitive information to Congress. Atkinson also expressed worry for the whistleblower’s protection from “reprisal or the threat of reprisal.”

The ICIG said that while Maguire had provided a “personal assurance” that the tipster’s identity would be protected, that wasn’t enough. Rather, Atkinson wrote, the tipster needs “the legally enforceable statutory protection previously available to whistleblowers in the Complainant’s situation.”

Atkinson added that the DNI’s decision “may reflect a gap in the law that constitutes a significant problem and deficiency concerning the DNI’s responsibility and authority — or perceived responsibility and authority — relating to intelligence programs or activities.”

He said that Maguire’s position was “affecting the execution of two of my most important duties and responsibilities.”

The letter came on Tuesday, the same day that Maguire refused a subpoena issued by House Intelligence Committee Chair Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) for the whistleblower’s complaint.

Following today’s closed door hearing of the House Intelligence Committee, Chairman Adam Schiff explained where things stand.

Next Thurday there will be an open public hearing with acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire who, no doubt, will be evasive and continue to obstruct Congress on the basis of the Trump “Injustice” Department’s Office of Legal Counsel advice, in violation of the law and defiance of the Congress. William “Coverup” Barr must be impeached.

The New York Times expands the story a little further this evening. Whistle-Blower’s Complaint Is Said to Involve Multiple Acts by Trump:

A potentially explosive complaint by a whistle-blower in the intelligence community said to involve President Trump was related to a series of actions that goes beyond any single discussion with a foreign leader, according to interviews on Thursday.

The complaint was related to multiple acts, Michael Atkinson, the inspector general for American spy agencies, told lawmakers during a private briefing, two officials familiar with it said. But he declined to discuss specifics, including whether the complaint involved the president, according to committee members.

Separately, a person familiar with the whistle-blower’s complaint said it involves in part a commitment that Mr. Trump made in a communication with another world leader. The Washington Post first reported the nature of that discussion. But no single communication was at the root of the complaint, another person familiar with it said.

The complaint cleared an initial hurdle when Mr. Atkinson deemed it credible and began to pursue an investigation. But it has prompted a standoff between lawmakers and the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, who has refused to turn it over to Congress, as is generally required by law. It has become the latest in a series of fights over information between the Democratic-led House and the White House.

Democrats emerged from Mr. Atkinson’s briefing and renewed their accusation that the Trump administration was orchestrating a cover-up of an urgent and legitimate whistle-blower complaint that could affect national security.

* * *

Few details of the whistle-blower complaint are known, including the identity of the world leader involved in the single known communication. And it is not obvious how an exchange between Mr. Trump and a foreign leader could meet the legal standards for a whistle-blower complaint that the inspector general would deem an “urgent concern.”

Under the law, the complaint has to concern the existence of an intelligence activity that violates the law, rules or regulations, or otherwise amounts to mismanagement, waste, abuse, or a danger to public safety. But a conversation between two foreign leaders is not itself an intelligence activity.

And while Mr. Trump may have discussed intelligence activities with the foreign leader, he enjoys broad power as president to declassify intelligence secrets, order the intelligence community to act and otherwise direct the conduct of foreign policy as he sees fit, legal experts said.

Mr. Trump regularly speaks with foreign leaders and often takes a freewheeling approach. Some current and former officials said that what an intelligence official took to be a troubling commitment could have been an innocuous comment. But there has long been concern among some in the intelligence agencies that the information they share with the president is being politicized.

Andrew P. Bakaj, a former C.I.A. and Pentagon official whose legal practice specializes in whistle-blower and security clearance issues, confirmed that he is representing the official who filed the complaint. Mr. Bakaj declined to identify his client or to comment.

* * *

Mr. Schiff has been locked in the standoff with Mr. Maguire over the complaint for nearly a week. He said Mr. Maguire told him that he had been instructed not to give the complaint to Congress, and that the complaint addressed privileged information — meaning the president or people close to him were involved.

Mr. Schiff has said that none of the previous directors of national intelligence, a position created in 2004, had ever refused to provide a whistle-blower complaint to Congress. The House Intelligence Committee issued a subpoena last week to compel Mr. Maguire to appear before the panel. He briefly refused but relented on Wednesday, and is now scheduled to appear before the committee in an open hearing next Thursday.

Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence panel, said on Thursday that he and the committee’s Republican chairman, Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, also expected both the inspector general and acting director to brief them early next week and “clear this issue up.”

Mr. Maguire and Mr. Atkinson are at odds over how the complaint should be handled. Mr. Atkinson has indicated the matter should be investigated, and alerted the House and Senate Intelligence committees, while Mr. Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, says the complaint does not fall within the agencies’ purview because it does not involve a member of the intelligence community — a network of 17 agencies that does not include the White House [based on the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel’s advice].

The inspector general of the intelligence community “determined that this complaint is both credible and urgent, and that it should be transmitted to Congress under the clear letter of the law,” Mr. Schiff, Democrat of California, said in a statement on Wednesday evening.

Senator Angus King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, said the law is “very clear” that the whistle-blower complaint must be handed over to Congress.

“The Inspector General determines what level of concern it is,” said Mr. King, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “Once the determination is made,” he added, the director of national intelligence “has a ministerial responsibility to share that with Congress. It is not discretionary.”

“This is based upon the principle of separation of powers and Congress’s oversight responsibility,” Mr. King said.

* * *

The reports about the whistle-blower complaint touched off speculation about what Mr. Trump said and to whom.

In the weeks before the complaint was filed, Mr. Trump spoke with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan and the prime minister of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte.

And current and former intelligence officials have expressed surprise that during his first few months as president, Mr. Trump shared classified information provided by an ally, Israel, with the Russian foreign minister.

Such disclosures are not illegal, but Mr. Trump flouted intelligence-sharing decorum by sharing an ally’s intelligence without express permission.

Just yesterday, Trump was upbraided by a general for discussing new technology added to his “big beautiful wall” on the Mexico border. At border, general reminds Trump to stop discussing sensitive info: Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, acting head of the Army Corps, cautioned that “Sir, there could be some merit in not discussing that.”

As Buffalo Springfield sang, “There’s something happening here / What it is ain’t exactly clear.” We are not going to find out from acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire next week, who will stonewall on orders from Trump’s “Injustice” Department, and likely the White House. Meanwhile, an “urgent” national security threat may reside in the White House.




1 COMMENT

  1. It’s being reported that Donald Trump and Mike Pence are using foreign policy on their own behalf to gain advantage in a US election.

    They’re tying US aid to Ukraine in exchange for Ukraine helping them get dirt on Biden.

    Getting dirt on Biden is not the problem, it’s the bribery with taxpayer money that is the high crime.

    Biden is doing what he did back in the 80s, he’s self-destructing, and I don’t think he’s going to be the candidate, which means Trump, Pence, and Guiliani are committing a crime that has no payoff.

    Lordy, these people are idiots.

    FSNT

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