The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) wants their paws on the intelligence community whistleblower whose complaint launched the ongoing impeachment hearings in the U.S. House of Representatives. Exactly why is up for debate–but it just might have something to do with President Donald Trump‘s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.
According to Yahoo News, an FBI agent in Washington, D.C. “recently sought” an interview with the whistleblower via one their attorneys. That interview request is currently in hiatus–there is nothing in the way of an interview scheduled as of yet and it’s not clear whether the whistleblower or their legal team will agree to the FBI’s request.
The FBI’s interest was later confirmed by NBC News as well.
Per the initial report:
[The] move came after a vigorous internal debate within the [FBI] over how to respond to some of the issues raised by the complaint’s allegations and whether they needed to be more thoroughly investigated, according to sources familiar with the matter.
While the scope of the interview request is presently unknown, there are indications that suggest an inter-agency struggle and conflict between the U.S. Department of Justice and FBI over how to deal with the allegations contained in the whistleblower’s complaint.
According to NBC News, “some FBI officials were disturbed that the Justice Department declined to investigate the whistleblower’s complaint after a criminal referral was sent over from the inspector general of the Intelligence Community.”
An anonymous source cited by Yahoo more or less confirmed the dispute–saying there were “guys who wanted to run with it,” referring to a possible counterintelligence investigation into Giuliani’s contacts with Ukrainian hatchet men Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. “People were pissed off.”
But the FBI initially backed off and way from those concerns “because of the Russia investigation,” a former senior intelligence official who claims to have discussed the controversy with current counterintelligence agents said.
And that internal FBI debate all centered on whether Giuliani and his crew had been duped by so-called Russian interests.
“There were guys within the [intelligence community] who believe this is another Russian attempt,” Yahoo’s source said. “People think Giuliani is being led down the primrose path.”
Law&Crime previously reported on concerns raised by CNN Legal and National Security Analyst, attorney and former FBI special agent Asha Rangappa as to Giuliani’s potential as a “national security threat.”
FBI interviews related to counterintelligence issues were conducted in February and March of this year which implicated Giuliani, Rangappa noted, suggesting a “full” investigation was in the works.
“So basically, the FBI thinks something bad — and likely not ‘unwitting’ — is up,” she remarked in mid-October, “That Giuliani is a conduit for pushing the agendas of foreign intelligence and/or foreign interests. Which we really don’t want happening, especially in the Oval Office.”
Reaction to the FBI’s reported whistleblower ask was mixed.
“Hate to say it. But I am very suspicious about this,” said former federal prosecutor and legal commentator Elizabeth de la Vega. “Not cool,” added law professor and former U.S. Attorney Harry Litman.
not cool. https://t.co/NlBQWJ53NP
— Harry Litman (@harrylitman) November 20, 2019
University of Michigan Law Professor Barbara McQuade offered a somewhat cautious and contrary take in response to the news.
“Whistleblower’s information is something the FBI should investigate as a counterintelligence matter,” she said. “Barr’s quick rejection is the only questionable conduct.”
MSNBC legal analyst, former federal prosecutor and Pace Law legal scholar Mimi Rocah appeared to have taken up the same or a similar line of thought:
Scary: some at FBI felt Ukraine investigation was shut down (we know but interesting to hear some say it) & no one in FBI wanted to touch it b/c of Russia investigation which means Trump & co. tactics of intimidation is working.
“One possible interpretation of this is that they’re investigating Trump and the people around him,” noted MSNBC justice and security analyst Matthew Miller in summary of the competing viewpoints. “Another is that Barr ordered up some kind of leak probe to target the whistleblower.”
Miller later clarified that information “about the [July 25] call leaked before the transcript was declassified” and said that he “could see Barr ordering a leak probe over that, inappropriate as it would be.”
[image via Elsa/Getty Images]