A top official in the intelligence community has disputed the factual basis for the Trump administration’s suppression of a whistleblower complaint believed to regard the potential misconduct of the president himself, a new letter released Thursday revealed.
The letter was made public by House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA). He is locked into a fierce and potentially explosive dispute with an array of forces within the administration to obtain the complaint, which was made through proper channels by an intelligence official last month to the community’s inspector general. Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson determined that the complaint was “credible” and “urgent,” and subsequent reporting from the Washington Post found that it concerns a “promise” made by Trump in communication with a foreign leader.
But acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, who is supposed to take such urgent complaints from the IG to Congress, has refused to turn over the documents after consulting with the Justice Department about the matter. DNI General Counsel, in consultation with the DOJ, told Schiff and the committee that the law doesn’t require “disclosure of the complaint to the intelligence committees” because it did not concern “allegations of conduct by a member of the intelligence community or involve intelligence activity under the DNI’s supervision.”
In other words, Maguire is trying to claim that he doesn’t need to hand over the whistleblower complaint because it’s out of his jurisdiction. He has also claimed that there are “privilege” concerns involved, which could be plausible given the reported content of the complaint and which may indeed prevent him from disclosing the matter if it’s outside his jurisdiction.
However, it’s precisely this key claim of jurisdiction that Inspector General Atkinson disputes. In the letter to Schiff released Thursday, which has been sent Tuesday, Atkinson flatly stated that the DOJ is wrong.
The “disclosure not only falls within the DNI’s jurisdiction, but relates to one of the most significant and important of the DNI’s responsibility’s to the American people,” he wrote. Because of the disagreement, Atkinson said he has asked to disclose the “general subject matter” of the complaint to Congress, but he has been denied this permission.
He went on to say that his “unresolved differences with the Acting DNI are affecting the execution of two of my most important duties and responsibilities as the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community.” These two duties are his responsibility toward the whistleblower and his duties to the congressional oversight committees.