US Intelligence Official to Brief Lawmakers Over Mystery Complaint
U.S. intelligence officials have agreed to meet with the House Intelligence Committee, apparently ending a standoff over a still-mysterious whistleblower’s report.
The intelligence community inspector general will appear at a closed briefing on Thursday morning to discuss “the handling of the whistleblower complaint,” the committee said in a statement on Wednesday evening.
Also, Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire is to testify publicly before the panel on Sept. 26, according to the statement. The agreement seemed to head off the latest confrontation between congressional committees, led by Democrats, that are pursuing investigations of President Donald Trump and his administration, and a White House that largely refuses to cooperate.
Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff of California had been demanding that Maguire comply with a committee subpoena to turn over the report of alleged “serious misconduct,” which Schiff said might involve the White House.
Late Wednesday night, The Washington Post reported that the whistleblower complaint 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 apparently 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, officials told the Post.
“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,” the Post reported. “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.”
Jason Klitenic, the general counsel of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, told Schiff in a letter on Tuesday that the law did not require that the complaint be turned over to Congress.
The few additional details the committee’s investigative staff has learned about the whistleblower complaint without the actual document has left them shaken, according to an official familiar with the matter who asked for anonymity to discuss a sensitive issue.
Little is publicly known about the complaint, or who made it.
The unidentified whistleblower has been revealed as “an individual within the intelligence community,” who had made the complaint to the inspector general of the intelligence community, including in the Tuesday letter from Klitenic in response to Schiff’s request for information and a Sept. 13 communication with the panel.
The Tuesday letter reveals the complaint concerned conduct by someone outside the intelligence community, and involves “confidential and potentially privileged matters relating to the interests of other stakeholders within the executive branch.”
The complaint was filed about a month ago, Schiff has said.
In this instance, the inspector general had determined the complaint to be credible and of “urgent concern,” which Schiff says meant that Maguire was then required by statute to submit the complaint to the congressional intelligence committees – but he refused to do so.
The DNI, after consulting with the Department of Justice, responded that no statute, in fact, required disclosure of the details of this type of complaint to the congressional intelligence committees.
Klitenic did write to Schiff that the DNI was committed to working out a acceptable accommodation with the committee. He added that the DNI also pledged to continue to protect the whistleblower’s identity, and would not permit that person to become the target of any retaliation.
Trump chose Maguire to become the acting director of national intelligence when Dan Coats stepped down last month. Maguire had been the chief of the National Counterterrorism Center.
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