The chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence claims “something more sinister” is going on with President Donald Trump and the anonymous, withheld whistleblower complaint believed to involve a promise the White House made to Ukraine.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) told an assemblage of reporters on Friday that his committee would engage in “a thorough” investigation of the complaint come “hell or high water.”
Schiff stressed this wasn’t simply a dispute based on foreign policy:
Whether this involves Ukraine, or some other country, that the other finding that the inspector general had to make was this does not involve a policy difference. Because [a policy dispute] doesn’t qualify as an urgent complaint. This involves something more sinister.
“Something involving a serious or flagrant abuse or violation of law or misappropriation, and the inspector general underscored the seriousness of this, and also that this needs to be looked into,” Schiff added, “And right now, no one is looking into this.”
As Law&Crime previously reported, Acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Joseph Maguire declined to provide Congress with the whistleblower complaint–in an apparent violation of federal law.
That current law is the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act (ICWPA). The ICWPA, however, does not actually offer any protections for whistleblowers. Rather, the law outlines procedures for how intelligence community whistleblowers should alert their superiors as to real or perceived ethical transgressions and/or instances of lawlessness committed by federal authorities.
Essentially, if a whistleblower has a complaint, they write it up–making clear it’s a complaint filed under ICWPA–and submit it to their own agency’s inspector general or the broadly-mandated Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG).
Here, the complaint was submitted to the ICIG, who, according to the statute had 14 days to decide whether the complaint was both credible and an “urgent concern.” After that, the ICIG forwarded the complaint to the head of the whistleblower’s agency–Maguire at the DNI–and he had seven days to provide the complaint to Congress.
In this instance, however, Congress never got the complaint.
Maguire justified his refusal to share that information with Congress due to a legal decision authored by the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC).
“We do know that the Department of Justice has been involved in the decision to withhold that information from Congress,” Schiff said on Thursday. “We do not know — because we cannot get an answer to the question — about whether the White House is also involved in preventing this information from coming to Congress.”
Despite the cloak-heavy aspects of this entire cloak-and-dagger story line, speculation has run rampant that President Trump attempted to force the hand of Ukrainian officials to investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his allegedly unscrupulous family dealings in the former Soviet satellite state–by dangling an arms deal in exchange for at least the potential of dirt on Biden.
President Trump has called the entire story–with its suggestions of impropriety being brought to bear against both a foreign government and a domestic rival–“fake news” which prompted an immediate outcry and push back from credible legal observers.
Later at Friday’s press gaggle, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also threatened to perform oversight duties in order to force release of the whistleblower complaint to Congressional investigators:
Well, the law says that the DNI should send the information, shall, not should, shall send that information to Congress. So the law is the law. So, we just have to uphold the law.
[Image via ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images]