The US's top spy agency just dropped a big hint that an 'urgent' whistleblower complaint involves Trump or someone close to him

Sonam Sheth
U.S. President Donald Trump walks to address the media before boarding Marine One for a trip to New Mexico, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, U.S., September 16, 2019. REUTERS/Sarah Silbiger.

Reuters


  • The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) added fuel this week to suggestions that a whistleblower complaint it has been shielding from Congress involved President Donald Trump or senior White House officials.
  • The Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG) concluded in late August that the complaint was credible and a matter of "urgent concern." Federal law requires the ODNI to forward such complaints to the intelligence committees.
  • But in a letter to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff on Tuesday, the ODNI's general counsel, Jason Klitenic, said that after consulting with the Justice Department, the agency decided the complaint didn't meet the definition of "urgent concern" under the law.
  • In addition to flagging the complaint with the Justice Department — which is unusual in and of itself — Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, also refused to comment on whether the White House was involved in the decision to withhold the complaint.
  • Schiff said on CBS News' "Face the Nation" on Sunday that Maguire said he was not turning over the complaint, even though federal law mandates it, "because he is being instructed not to" and "answering to a higher authority."
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The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) dropped a big hint this week that a whistleblower complaint it has been withholding from Congress involved President Donald Trump or senior administration officials.

The complaint was filed in mid-August by someone whose identity is being protected by the Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG). The ICIG concluded in late August that the complaint was credible and a matter of "urgent concern."

Rep. Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, subpoenaed Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, to turn over the complaint last week, saying Maguire was required to turn the document over to Congress under federal law but had not done so.

But in a letter to Schiff on Tuesday, the ODNI's general counsel said the agency overruled the ICIG and determined the complaint didn't meet the definition of "urgent concern" under the law. The definition concerns serious allegations related to "the funding, administration or operation of an intelligence activity within the responsibility and authority" of the director of national intelligence, ODNI general counsel Jason Klitenic wrote in the letter.

"This complaint, however, concerned conduct by someone outside the Intelligence Community and did not relate to any 'intelligence activity' under the DNI's supervision," Klitenic added. For that reason, after consulting with the Justice Department, the agency concluded it was not required to forward the complaint to the intelligence committees.

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Schiff said on Tuesday that Klitenic's letter added to concerns that the ODNI was acting to shield Trump or someone in his inner circle from public scrutiny.

In addition to flagging the complaint with the Justice Department — which is unusual in and of itself for matters like these — Maguire also refused to comment on whether the White House was involved in the decision to withhold the complaint from the House Intelligence Committee, and whether it related to any matters being investigated by the panel.

Schiff said on CBS News' "Face the Nation" on Sunday that Maguire said he was not turning over the complaint, even though federal law mandates it, "because he is being instructed not to" and "answering to a higher authority" on the matter.

"This involved a higher authority, someone above the DNI," Schiff said. "Well, there are only a few people above the DNI."

Schiff said this week that since Maguire was refusing to turn over the complaint, he must appear before the committee on Thursday to further explain his decision.

But Klitenic said in his letter to Schiff that the agency believed it would be "premature" for Maguire to testify before the committee on Thursday. He added that Maguire wasn't available on such short notice and was still weighing how to respond to Schiff's demand.

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