November 19, 2019, 1:20

Congress to question top intelligence official on handling of whistleblower complaint

Congress to question top intelligence official on handling of whistleblower complaint

Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire is expected to face questions before the House and Senate Intelligence committees on Thursday about his handling of a whistleblower complaint that prompted House Democrats to launch a formal impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump.

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Maguire did not transmit the complaint — centered on comments made by Trump to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in a July phone call — to Congress until Wednesday, though the Intelligence Community Inspector General considered it “credible” and of “urgent concern,” requiring reporting to Congress. But the acting director of national intelligence and the Justice Department blocked the inspector general from doing so, arguing that it did not meet the threshold requiring its transmission to lawmakers.

“The law is very clear that his job is ministerial, to transmit the report to the intelligence committees. He didn’t do it, so the question is why?” Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., a member of the House Intelligence Committee who will question Maguire, told ABC News. “What did he do, why did he do it and who was involved in the decision for him not to do it?”

Marcus Tappan/AFP/Getty Images, FILE

Nominee for director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Joseph Maguire is sworn in during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, July 25, 2018.

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., another member of the panel, said the committee hopes to learn more about any conversations the acting director of national intelligence had with White House officials, including those who may have had a role in blocking the delivery of the complaint to Congress.

(MORE: Democrat Schiff compares Trump call with Ukraine’s president to ‘mafia shakedown’)

Samuel Corum/Getty Images

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff arrives at the Capitol before the committee meeting with Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire on September 19, 2019, in Washington, D.C.

(MORE: Read the transcript of Trump’s call with the Ukraine president )

Lawmakers received access to the classified complaint on Wednesday after House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., had subpoenaed the DNI for the materials and after the Trump administration released a memorandum about the call between Trump and Zelenskiy. The memo is not verbatim.

“I found the allegations deeply disturbing and very credible,” Schiff said Wednesday night, after describing Trump’s call “far more damning than I or many others imagined.”

Democrats have launched a formal impeachment inquiry over the complaint and Trump’s comments during the phone call, in which he urged Zelenskiy to work with the Justice Department to investigate Joe Biden’s son Hunter and his business dealings in Ukraine when his father was vice president.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks to the media at the Capitol Building September 24, 2019 in Washington, DC.

(MORE: Speaker Pelosi has called for an impeachment inquiry. What happens next?)

House Democratic leaders, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, continued to organize their impeachment efforts behind closed doors on Wednesday, weighing the scope of their renewed impeachment investigation and whether it should encompass more than the complaint and Trump’s comments to the Ukrainian president, according to a Democrat familiar with the deliberations.

Many Republicans continued to defend the president on Wednesday after the release of the transcript, arguing that his comments to Zelenskiy and the call did not include a quid pro quo regarding the nearly $400 million in foreign aid that Trump had ordered his acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney to hold back ahead of the July phone call. They said Democrats were working to damage Trump politically in an effort to reverse the results of the last presidential election.

A few Republicans, including Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah and Ben Sasse of Nebraska, expressed concern with the details of Trump’s call. Romney described them as “deeply troubling.”

In a statement released Wednesday, Maguire refuted a Washington Post report that he had threatened to resign if the White House attempted to keep him from testifying freely before Congress.

“At no time have I considered resigning my position since assuming this role on Aug. 16, 2019,” he said. “I have never quit anything in my life, and I am not going to start now. I am committed to leading the Intelligence Community to address the diverse and complex threats facing our nation.”

Maguire will testify in public before House lawmakers on Thursday morning and appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee behind closed doors later in the day.

Schiff said he is still seeking to interview the author of the complaint, though it’s unclear if both parties had reached an agreement Wednesday night. Lawmakers said Wednesday that they did not expect to publicly discuss the details of the complaint, due to its classification.


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