The nation’s top intelligence official has refused to comply with a House Intelligence Committee subpoena to provide the contents of a whistleblower complaint a government watchdog deemed “urgent” and credible, the panel’s chairman, Adam Schiff, said late Tuesday. The California Democrat warned the agency might be acting to conceal high-level wrongdoing by President Donald Trump or his immediate advisers.
“The committee’s position is clear — the acting DNI [Director of National Intelligence] can either provide the complaint as required under the law, or he will be required to come before the committee to tell the public why he is not following the clear letter of the law, including whether the White House or the attorney general are directing him to do so,” Schiff said.
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“He has yet to provide the complaint in response to the committee’s subpoena, so I expect him to appear on Thursday — under subpoena if necessary,” he added.
Schiff sounded an alarm last week after acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire intervened to block Congress from receiving the contents of the still-secret whistleblower complaint. Maguire, according to Schiff, diverted it to the Justice Department and told the committee he would refuse to share it because it involved someone outside the intelligence community and might involve matters of confidentiality and privilege.
Schiff ripped Maguire for breaching a law that requires him to share with Congress any whistleblower complaint deemed urgent by the intelligence community’s inspector general. He said the confluence of factors led him to believe the complaint involved Trump or other senior executive branch officials.
But DNI general counsel Jason Klitenic insisted in a letter to Schiff on Tuesday that Maguire had followed the letter of the law in blocking the transmission of the complaint to Congress. The whistleblower statute governing his agency, he said, only applies when the complaint involves a member of the intelligence community. Because it was aimed at a person outside the intelligence community, he said, the whistleblower statute does not apply to this scenario.
Under the statute, Klitenic stated, deeming a whistleblower complaint “urgent” is only valid when it applies to conduct by someone “within the responsibility and authority” of the DNI. Therefore, he said, after consulting with the Justice Department, he determined the complaint did not qualify as an “urgent” concern requiring transmittal to Congress.
He promised in his letter to protect the identity of the whistleblower and prevent any possible retaliation. “We will not permit the complainant to be subject to any retaliation or adverse consequence based upon his or her communication the complaint to the” inspector general, Klitenic wrote.
“We also believe at this juncture that it would be premature for the DNI to appear on Thursday at a congressional hearing,” Klitenic added, saying Maguire wouldn’t be available on short notice and that he’s still considering the appropriate response to the committee’s demands.