House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Adam Schiff announced Tuesday that the whistleblower who filed a mysterious complaint, which includes allegations about President Donald Trump’s conduct, would like to speak to the committee.
The whistleblower has requested guidance from acting DNI Joseph Maguire on how to do so, Schiff said.
“We have been informed by the whistleblower’s counsel that their client would like to speak to our committee and has requested guidance from the Acting DNI as to how to do so,” Schiff tweeted.
“We’re in touch with counsel and look forward to the whistleblower’s testimony as soon as this week,” he added.
The whistleblower’s legal counsel did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.
Asked about Schiff’s comments, an ODNI spokesperson told CNN: “ODNI continues to work with the Administration and Congress to accommodate Congressional requests regarding the whistleblower complaint. We are aware of recent developments the news media reported this afternoon, and appreciate your interest in this evolving matter.”
“Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire will appear in an open session before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Thursday, Sept. 26. Updates on ADNI Maguire’s testimony or other matters within ODNI’s purview will be provided as they become available,” the statement said.
The news came shortly after Trump said Tuesday he will release the “unredacted transcript” of his July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky — a call which has been scrutinized in the wake of the whistleblower complaint and Trump’s admission that he pushed Zelensky to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son Hunter during the conversation.
There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Joe or Hunter Biden.
The lawyers for the intel community whistleblower confirmed later on Tuesday in a statement that they wrote to the acting DNI asking for guidance on “the appropriate security practices to permit a meeting, if needed” with members of the intelligence committee.
“Today, we wrote to the Acting Director of National Intelligence to request specific guidance as to the appropriate security practices to permit a meeting, if needed, with the Members of the Intelligence Oversight Committees. We await a timely response from the Acting Director providing such guidance,” wrote Andrew Bakaj, the lead attorney for the whistleblower.
In a letter to Bakaj, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s General Counsel commended the whistleblower for acting in “good faith” and in full compliance with the law, in a letter to the whistleblower’s attorneys.
“I also want to take this opportunity to state that we have every reason to believe that your client – our IC colleague – has acted in good faith and fully complied with the law,” wrote Jason Klitenic.
Klitenic also wrote that the whistleblower’s disclosure does “not fall within the statutory definition of an ‘urgent concern.'” But he added that because the complaint involves potentially privileged communications, they are consulting with other “Executive Branch stakeholders” before responding with the requested guidance about meeting with lawmakers.
“I am currently at the United Nations representing our Country, but have authorized the release tomorrow of the complete, fully declassified and unredacted transcript of my phone conversation with President Zelensky of Ukraine,” Trump tweeted while attending the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
….You will see it was a very friendly and totally appropriate call. No pressure and, unlike Joe Biden and his son, NO quid pro quo! This is nothing more than a continuation of the Greatest and most Destructive Witch Hunt of all time!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 24, 2019
Trump also admitted that he delayed aid to Ukraine ahead of the call to Zelensky, when he pushed the leader to look into potential rival Joe Biden and his son’s work in Ukraine, giving the excuse that he was waiting for European nations to contribute their fair share of aid and claiming there was “never any quid pro quo.”
But on Monday, The Washington Post first reported that the President had directed his acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney to freeze nearly $400 million of US military and security aid to Ukraine in the days before he spoke with Zelensky.
Democrats ramping up pressure
While Trump remains defiant, asserting he did nothing wrong, Democrats have continued to ramp up calls for action.
But Schiff vowed last week to mount an extensive investigation into the whistleblower controversy dominating Washington and said Congress will get to the bottom of why those details are being withheld from lawmakers come “hell or high water,” asserting that the case involves something “more sinister” than a policy difference.
He and other congressional Democrats have been growing more and more agitated with the White House and Maguire, who have blocked their access to the complaint. Democratic lawmakers contend that Maguire is violating the law in refusing to turn over the complaint, something his office disputes.
Schiff has maintained that he has yet to see the complaint itself and does not know the identity of the whistleblower.
CNN reported last week that the White House has been advising the nation’s top intelligence agency that the complaint is outside intelligence activities covered by laws governing intelligence whistleblowers, according to three sources familiar with the matter.
During a closed-door briefing with Schiff’s committee last Thursday, Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community’s inspector general, would only discuss the process for his handling of the whistleblower’s concerns, the chairman said. Though lawmakers pressed him for details on the complaint, their efforts were ultimately unsuccessful.
The inspector general does not have the authority to discuss the details of the complaint with Congress because the DNI has not shared the actual report with the committee and had apparently not otherwise authorized Atkinson to share those details.
The intelligence whistleblower act does not allow for details to be provided until the actual complaint has been given to Congress, CNN legal contributor Steve Vladeck explained at the time.
Although the official details of the complaint have not been provided to members of Congress, Atkinson told the panel during the briefing that it raised concerns about multiple actions but would not say if those instances involved Trump, according to sources familiar with the briefing.
DNI scheduled to appear before Congress on Thursday
Three House committees launched subsequent investigations into the issue. Maguire is scheduled to appear before the House Intelligence Committee in an open hearing Thursday. He and Atkinson will also brief Senate Intelligence Committee members behind closed doors that same day, a source familiar with the planning told CNN.
CNN had earlier reported, citing a source familiar with the case, that the complaint was prompted by concerns over communications between the President and a foreign leader.
The alleged whistleblower didn’t have direct knowledge of the communications that partly prompted the complaint to the inspector general, an official briefed on the matter told CNN on Thursday.
Instead, the whistleblower’s concerns came in part from learning information that was not obtained during the course of their work, and those details have played a role in the administration’s determination that the complaint didn’t fit the reporting requirements under the intelligence whistleblower law, the official said.