The White House suspected of illegally withholding a whistle-blower complaint to avoid scandal

Schiff discusses the situation with CBS's Meet The Press host Margaret Brennan. Screenshot courtesy Rep. Adam Schiff via YouTube

The Trump administration has been a virtual merry-go-round of officials coming and going with a plethora of “acting” officials continually working within the Trump administration. And as Salon notes, there are few Senate-confirmed Cabinet and federal agency heads. This results in a steady stream of people being forced to audition permanent positions under an increasingly unstable president who’s destroying everything one could consider good governance.

Throw into that bonfire a new potential political scandal that may well test the loyalty of these acting officials by pitting their loyalty to the U.S. against their wishes to impress their boss and that bonfire stands every chance of becoming unmanageable.

There have been complaints from the Trump camp regarding leaks, especially from former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, from the get-go, accompanied by pushback to file their complaints in the proper channels. Now, however, there’s a serious allegation that the Trump administration has worked diligently to silence whistleblowers.

That allegation comes from Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who, as head of the House Intelligence Committee, has done his homework. He reports that a whistleblower lodged an urgent complaint about wrongdoing inside the intelligence community, but the situation is being ignored and thus unprotected.

And Schiff said so in a letter to the committee that was released late last week. In that letter, he accuses “a top intel official of ‘illegally withholding” a “whistleblower” complaint that was described as “urgent” by the Intelligence Committee Inspector General (IC IG). Schiff’s letter also alleges the White House may be implicated.

“A month ago, a whistleblower within the intelligence community lawfully filed a complaint regarding a serious or flagrant problem, abuse, violation of law, or deficiency within the responsibility or authority of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI),” Schiff said in a statement.

The committee was notified by the IC IG of the whistleblower complaint on Sept. 9 and the day after, Schiff requested a complete and unredacted copy of the complaint, along with the IC IG’s findings regarding the issue. But he didn’t stop there. He also said he wanted to see all records connected to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s (ODNI) involvement, including “any and all correspondence with other Executive Branch actors including the White House.”

Schiff further cemented this by filing a subpoena late last week, and it requires ODNI to proffer the complaint and relevant records by September 17. Meaning that director Joseph Maguire will be mandated to appear before the committee as part of an open hearing Thursday.

And this is something that could become very serious indeed. Fireworks might be involved.

Writing for Salon, Sofia Tesfaye notes:

“In what may be the clearest example yet of obstruction in the Trump administration, acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, in direct contradiction to an unambiguous rule worked out in the wake of Watergate, is refusing to hand over the Whistleblower’s complaint to Congress. The ODNI officially declined the Intelligence Committee’s request on Friday, saying that Maguire is withholding the complaint in part because it ‘involves confidentially and potentially privileged communications by persons outside the Intelligence Community.'”

Tesfaye adds that this is really, wrong because Maguire is ignoring the statutory mandate that’s specifically intended to prevent intelligence officials from using discretion in this way.

“…that is, they’re not supposed to keep Congress from hearing whistleblower reports, or to let the officials implicated in any allegations unilaterally decide to bury them,” she writes.

Tesfaye notes Schiff’s letter is an attempt to encourage the whistleblower, who might otherwise never be notified about how the complaint was being handled, to directly seek out the Committee.

“[T]he Committee expects the whistleblower to be fully protected from … reprisal, or threat of reprisal. This includes personnel action for making the disclosure to the IC IG and, if he or she so elects, for contacting the Committee directly, as permitted under the statute.”

And Schiff’s conversation with Margaret Brennan, on CBS News’ Face The Nation Sunday, shed additional light on the situation after Brennan asked him if he’d had a response from Maguire, MSNBC reports.

But once again, like other White House officials before him, Maguire is ignoring the subpoena. So far.

“No DNI— no Director of National Intelligence has ever refused to turn over a whistleblower complaint,” Schiff said. “And here, Margaret, the significance is the inspector general found this complaint to be urgent, found it to be credible, that is they did some preliminary investigation, found the whistleblower to be credible, that suggests corroboration. And that it involved serious or flagrant wrongdoing. And according to the Director of National Intelligence, the reason he is not acting to provide it, even though the statute mandates that he do so, is because he is being instructed not to. That this involved a higher authority, someone above the DNI.”

It’s not completely clear what the nature of the whistleblower complaint is as yet, but the only person the National Intelligence director reports to is the one who sits front and center in the Oval office. And it looks very much like the Trump administration may be trying to hide this from Congress.

MSNBC notes:

“And if Donald Trump or his team were involved in ordering the DNI to withhold the whistleblower complaint it raises the potential of a very serious scandal.”

The Trump administration continually obfuscates and obscures the truth, so are they hiding something here, and if so why?

Here’s the conversation between Schiff and Brennan below.

Featured image courtesy of the video above

H/T to Sophia Tesfaye/Salon