Intelligence Community secretly eliminates requirement of firsthand whistleblower knowledge

Welch, Stefanik question Maguire over whistleblower complaint

Adam Schiff, chair of the House Intelligence panel, said the whistle-blower complaint "lays out a scheme to use the leverage of the presidency, use the leverage of vital military assistance to a foreign nation to provide or obtain dirt on a political opponent".

NPR's Ryan Lucas has been following all of this, and he's here in the studio.

Trump and his surrogates have tried to prove Trump did nothing wrong by arguing the complaint is based on secondhand information and discrediting the whistleblower themselves. What does it tell us? But the confirmation about classification, along with a rough transcript of Trump's call, corroborates key elements of the whistle-blower's account, making it more hard for Trump to discredit the full complaint. Maguire then blocked release of the complaint to Congress, citing issues of presidential privilege and saying the complaint did not deal with an "urgent concern".

"In the days following the phone call, I learned from multiple US officials that senior White House officials had intervened to "lock down" all the records of the phone call, especially the official word-for-word transcript of the call that was produced as is customary by the White House situation room", the complaint says.

On August 12, a member of the intelligence community - a CIA officer, according to The New York Times - filed a complaint about a July phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The complaint also said the White House then attempted to "lock down" the information to prevent its public disclosure, including by removing the transcript of the call from the computer system that is typically used for such records of calls with foreign leaders and loading it into a separate electronic system that is used only for classified information that is of an "especially sensitive nature". In July 2018, Mr. Trump stood by Mr. Putin in Helsinki and said he didn't "see any reason" why Russian Federation would have been behind the hacks.

SHAPIRO:.Since we got the summary yesterday.

LUCAS: That's a really good question.

"Under your approach, as you saw it, it means that no one would be investigating the underlying conduct, because in this case, executive privilege applies or may apply, and number two, the president who had the conversation is above the law", Welch said to Maguire. The whistleblower makes clear, though, that he or she - we don't know who this is - was not a direct witness to most of the events described. Let's hear what he had to say.

SHAPIRO: And consistent with the documents that we've seen in the last couple of days.

The whistleblower said in the complaint, which was released to the public on Thursday morning, that USA officials had told them that Trump was "using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election".

Acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire told Congress he was acting within the law when he opted not to forward a whistleblower complaint to lawmakers.

The House and Senate intelligence committees reviewed the complaint this week, more than a month after it was filed.

LUCAS: There was a lot in here. And he did notify them that there was a complaint, but he didn't reveal the contents. He went to the White House.

Maguire denied that he had contemplated resigning. He said flat-out the White House had not directed him to withhold it from lawmakers. "This president in a panic about holding onto power is launching an unprecedented general election attack ad campaign before the first Democratic primary has been held". And those communications are covered by executive privilege.

The nonprofit group Whistleblower Aid opened a public donation site seeking funds for the person's legal fees on Wednesday.

Maguire expressed "my support for the whistleblower", who he said had followed regular procedures for raising a concern with the inspector general.

"My conversations with the President, because I'm the Director of National Intelligence, are privileged and it would be inappropriate for me because it would destroy my relationship with the President in intelligence matters to divulge any of my conversations with the President of the United States", Maguire said responding to a question from Rep. Jim Himes, a Connecticut Democrat. "I have every reason to believe that they have done everything by the book and followed the law".



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