President Donald Trump on Thursday reacted to a Washington Post story that a “promise” he made to a foreign leader had caused a whistleblower in the intelligence community to make a formal complaint, calling it “Presidential Harassment!”
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In a series of tweets Thursday morning, Trump called the Post account “Another Fake News story,” saying “Virtually anytime I speak on the phone to a foreign leader, I understand that there may be many people listening from various U.S. agencies.”
“Knowing all of this, is anybody dumb enough to believe that I would say something inappropriate with a foreign leader while on such a potentially “heavily populated” call. I would only do what is right anyway, and only do good for the USA!” he tweeted.
President Donald Trump speaks with reporters before departing on Marine One from the South Lawn of the White House, Sept. 16, 2019.
As Trump was tweeting, the inspector general for intelligence community was on Capitol Hill being questioned behind closed doors by the House Intelligence Committee on the matter. He was expected to brief members on the handling of the complaint as opposed the content, Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said Wednesday.
Schiff and other Democrats are angry that the Trump administration had blocked the whistleblower complaint from being forwarded promptly to Congress, within the seven days they say the law requires.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP, FILE
Retired Vice Adm. Joseph Maguire and now current director of the National Counterterrorism Center appears before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill, July 25, 2018.
The acting Director of National Intelligence, Joseph Maguire, originally was called to testify before the House Intelligence Committee Thursday but now has agreed to do so in public session Sept. 26.
Schiff accused his McGuire’s office of improperly withholding the intelligence community’s whistleblower complaint from Congress.
Schiff issued a subpoena last week for the complaint, described as “of urgent concern” by the intelligence community’s inspector general, Michael Atkinson
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Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Representative Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, speaks during a hearing with Robert Mueller, former special counsel for the Department of Justice, in Washington, D.C., July 24, 2019.
“The director has said essentially that he is answering to a higher authority and refusing to turn over the whistleblower complaint. This is deeply troubling,” Schiff said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “Ignoring the subpoena, ignoring our request. No DNI — no director of national intelligence — has ever refused to turn over a whistleblower complaint.”
A spokesperson for the ODNI did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
An administration official confirmed to ABC News that the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel advised the ODNI that it did not have to inform Congress of the whistleblower’s complaint within seven days, because the complaint did not concern conduct by a member of the intelligence community.
The complaint involves conduct by someone outside the intelligence community, according to a letter to Schiff from Jason Klitenic, general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, obtained by ABC News.
(MORE: Trump’s pick for intelligence director misrepresented role in anti-terror case)
According to that letter, obtained by ABC News, Klitenic wrote “The complaint here involves confidential and potentially privileged matters relating to the interests of other stakeholders within the Executive Branch.”
The letter was first obtained by The New York Times on Tuesday.
Klitenic also argued that the complaint doesn’t meet the definition of “urgent concern” that would require the DNI to forward the matter to Congress.
In the Sep. 13 letter, Klitenic wrote that DOJ also agreed with the ODNI’s assessment “that the complaint did not state an urgent concern,” which he said further absolved ODNI of its legal requirement to inform Congress.
A DOJ official would not comment on whether Attorney General William Barr was ever directly involved in the matter.
Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal demanded the whistleblower material, telling ABC News that the failure to hand over the information amounts to a “cover-up.”
“That whistleblower material must be made available to Congress,” Blumenthal said Thursday. “The failure to do so amounts to a cover-up and the whistleblower information has to be provided to Congress. Not just to the intelligence committee but to the Congress.”
He added: “This information is of the utmost concern because it bears on our security as well the integrity of the intelligence community.”
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said he expects to see the material at some point.
“I’m on the Intelligence Committee and I expect that I’ll have a chance to see that, but I’m not going to talk about classified matters in public,” Cornyn said.
There are numerous examples of the president’s conversations with foreign leaders raising concerns — in 2017, the president shared intelligence with Russian officials in the Oval Office and in 2018 it was reported that the president ignored a message — “DO NOT CONGRATULATE” — from national security advisers — regarding Trump’s call with Russian President Vladimir Putin after his election.
The Washington Post reports the complaint was filed on “Aug. 12, a date on which Trump was at his golf resort in New Jersey. White House records indicate that Trump had had conversations or interactions with at least five foreign leaders in the preceding five weeks.”
The calls Trump made during the previous five weeks include Russian President Vladimir Putin, President of France Emmanuel Macron, Qatari Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, President of Egypt Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and U.K. politician and now prime minister, Boris Johnson.