In-Depth: Sponsoring Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) introduced this resolution to express the sense of the House of Representatives that the whistleblower complaint made on August 12, 2019 should be forwarded to Congress for appropriate investigation.
Writing in the National Review, Andrew McCarthy, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, warns that it would be easy to politicize the whistleblower complaint, but that doing so would be unwise:
“The president has the power to conduct foreign policy as he sees fit. The Congress has the power to subject that exercise to thorough examination. The clash of these powers is a constant in our form of government. It is politics. For once, let’s find out what happened before we leap to DEFCON 1.”
On Tuesday, September 24, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) introduced a Senate resolution calling for the whistleblower complaint to go to the Senate and House intelligence panels. The resolution unanimously passed the Senate despite Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s criticism of it as a “made-for-TV moment.”
Of Note: In mid-September 2019, it was revealed that an internal Trump administration whistleblower had filed a complaint about “multiple acts” by President Trump on August 12, 2019. According to the Washington Post’s Greg Miller, Ellen Nakashima, and Shane Harris, the complaint was partly about a troubling “promise” made during a conversation between Trump and a foreign leader. However, in a followup, the New York Times reported that the complaint was broader than a single call or promise.
Ultimately, it was revealed that the whistleblower repeatedly expressed concerns that President Trump repeatedly pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, in a July phone call. Other concerns are also covered in the complaint. Reportedly, on July 25, 2019, Trump spoke to Zelensky to pressure him to investigate a story that, as vice president, Biden pressured Ukraine to fire a prosecutor who had investigated Hunter.
The Office of the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community (ICIG) determined the complaint to be credible and a matter of “urgent concern.” Usually, this legal standard requires the notification of Congressional oversight committees.
In fact, per a letter to Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Devin Nunes (R-CA), respectively the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee, the ICIG determined that the complaint “relates to one of the most significant and important of the DNI’s responsibilities to the American people.”
However, despite the ICIG’s concerns, Acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Joseph Maguire intervened to block Congress from receiving the complaint’s contents. According to Schiff, Maguire diverted the complaint to the DOJ and told the committee he’d refuse to share it because it involved someone outside the intelligence community and could involve matters of confidentiality and privilege.
In response to Maguire’s actions, Schiff criticized him for breaching a law and requires him to share any whistleblower complaint deemed urgent by the ICIG with Congress. Rep. Schiff added that he believes the confluence of factors leads him to believe the complaint involves Trump or other senior executive branch officials. In a letter to Maguire, Schiff wote, “You have neither the legal authority nor the discretion to overrule a determination by the IC IG. Your office has attempted to justify doing so based on a radical distortion of the statute that completely subverts the letter and spirit of the law.” Therefore, Rep. Schiff subpoenaed Maguire for testimony.
In a September 17, 2019 letter to Rep. Schiff, DNI general counsel Jason Klitenic argued that Magure followed the letter of the law in blocking the complaint’s transmission to Congress. In his letter, Klitenic argued that the whistleblower statute governing DNI is only applicable when a complaint involves a member of the intelligence community. Because the complaint in question is aimed at a person outside the intelligence community, Klitenic argued that the whistleblower statute doesn’t apply.
Historically, the executive branch has maintained that it doesn’t consider the statutory language with regard to whistleblower complaints mandatory. When he signed the original Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act of 1998, President Clinton stated that it “does not constrain my constitutional authority to review and, if appropriate, control disclosure of certain classified information to Congress.” In 2010, President Obama reiterated the limitation.
Acting DNI Maguire has said he’ll testify before the House Intelligence Committee in an open session on September 26. Additionally, the Senate Intelligence Committee is expected to receive a closed-door briefing from the Intelligence Community Inspector General, Michael Atkinson, about the complaint on the same day. It’s unclear whether Atkinson will be bringing the complaint with him.
President Trump has said he’ll share the transcript of the call between himself and Zelensky on Wednesday, September 25. With regard to the complaint itself, the administration has reversed its original position and has begun preparing to release the whistleblower complaint and the ICIG report to Congress by the end of the week. According to an administration official, the president has agreed to this move.
On September 24, Trump tweeted in his defense that the transcripts will exonerate him:
“You will see it was a very friendly and totally appropriate call. No pressure and, unlike Joe Biden and his son, NO quid pro quo! This is nothing more than a continuation of the Greatest and most Destructive Witch Hunt of all time!”
Summary by Lorelei Yang(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / MHJ)