House Intelligence Committee Questions Acting DNI's Handling Of Whistleblower Complaint

Sep 26, 2019

Updated at 1:25 p.m.

Vermont Rep. Peter Welch was among the House intelligence committee members to ask acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire Thursday why he didn’t send the whistleblower complaint regarding a July 25 communication between President Donald Trump and Ukraine’s president to Congress sooner.

Rewatch the hearing below (on mobile? click here):

Read NPR's full reporting on the hearing here.

The complaint asserts that President Trump pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate activities of Democratic presidential candidate and former vice president Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, in order to interfere in the 2020 U.S. election. It also notes Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and Attorney General William Barr appear to be involved in the matter.

Maguire explained that the exchange between Trump and the Ukrainian president was subject to executive privilege. He added that because the president is not a member of the intelligence community, Maguire felt he should consult the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel, which determined the complaint didn’t legally qualify to be sent onto Congress.

Once the White House released notes from the call between Trump and Zelensky on Wednesday, Maguire said the conversation, and the whistleblower complaint about it, was no longer subject to executive privilege.

But several members of the House intelligence committee including Vermont Rep. Peter Welch took issue with Maguire’s approach.

While Welch said he believed Maguire acted in good faith, he also wondered how Maguire could take the complaint to the DOJ when its head, Attorney General William Barr, was named in the document.

Welch also didn’t agree with Maguire’s assessment that an elected official — whether the president or a senator — fell outside the intelligence community’s purview, especially when the matter concerned a question of election interference.

“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. “So that’s a dilemma for our democracy, is it not?”

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