The Trump administration is trying to bury what looks to be a major scandal by withholding a report that should by law have been passed on to Congress more than ten days ago. Said report is a complaint made by a whistleblower from inside the intelligence community that was filed on August 12, alleging serious misconduct.
The information was reviewed by the Inspector General for the Intelligence Community, who deemed it to be both credible and of “urgent concern.” Existing statute says that a complaint of this nature should be passed on to the congressional intelligence committees by the Director of National Intelligence as the next step in a clearly prescribed process – but that is not what happened in this case. In an unprecedented move, Donald Trump’s handpicked Acting Director of National Intelligence, Joseph Maguire, refused to hand the report over to the House Intelligence Committee after consulting with the Department of Justice which – in the normal course of things – does not have any role at all to play in the process of submitting whistleblower material from within the intelligence community. The reason given by Maguire for withholding the report was that it involved “confidential and privileged communications by persons outside the Intelligence Community.”
Now, House Intel Committee Chairman Adam Schiff has very publicly taken a shovel to that buried secret and seems to be grimly determined to bring it back to light. Representative Schiff’s first move came on Friday, when he issued a subpoena to Acting DNI Maguire for the suppressed whistleblower report, accompanied by a very angry letter. In his letter, Representative Schiff brings out the big guns by stating that “the Committee can only conclude, based on this remarkable confluence of factors, that the serious misconduct at issue involves the President of the United States and/or other senior White House of Administration officials.” This very serious allegation may originally have been Schiff’s way of putting pressure on Maguire to surrender the report, but it looks more and more like he hit a bullseye.
The next move in Adam Schiff’s strategy of bringing the buried scandal to the public’s attention was to appear on Sunday’s Face The Nation where he talked to CBS’s Margaret Brennan about his latest findings and the conclusions he is drawing. Chairman Schiff revealed that he has received a response to his Friday letter and that it contained the following information: “The Director has said, essentially, that he is answering to a higher authority and refusing to turn over the whistleblower complaint.” He added, “This is deeply troubling.” It is indeed, because there are in fact very few people who are above the DNI in authority. Add this to Joseph Maguire’s earlier claim that the whistleblower complaint involves privileged communications, and you end up with exactly the group of people referred to in Adam Schiff’s letter.
This story stinks to high heaven. Nevertheless, it is important not to let it get buried. Representative Schiff made it clear that he and his committee have no intention of letting this go: “We are going to do everything necessary to make sure that whistleblowers … can come directly to Congress, which the Director is also prohibiting at this point.” Additionally, the House Intelligence Committee plans to require Acting Director Maguire to appear in an open hearing on Thursday, September 19 if he fails to comply with Adam Schiff’s subpoena, so we will be hearing more about this in the coming days.