The latest on the Trump whistleblower mystery
The intelligence inspector general suggested to the House intelligence committee today that the whistleblower had concerns about multiple actions, CNN is told by sources familiar with the briefing.
The inspector general did not say specifically all the acts of concern involved the president, the sources said. One source said the inspector general referenced “a sequence of events” and “alleged actions” that took place.
Another source disputed that the inspector general provided substantive details regarding the whistleblower claim.
CNN had earlier reported, citing a source familiar with the case, that the complaint was prompted by concerns over a phone call between the president and a foreign leader.
Inspector General Michael Atkinson was pressed for details but was mostly resistant to the queries, saying he is not allowed to provide details of the substance of the complaint because he was not authorized to do so, the sources said. He is discussing the process for his handling of the whistleblower's concerns.
The New York Times was first to report there was more than one action at the heart of the whistleblower complaint.
Clarification: This post has been updated to clarify that the "multiple concerns" may not all pertain to the President.
The inspector general for the intelligence community indicated to lawmakers that he did not agree with the administration's assertion that details in the whistleblower complaint should be withheld from Congress, according to a source familiar with a briefing held with House Intel members Thursday.
Inspector general for the intelligence community Michael Atkinson explained that he could not disclose the details in the complaint as the Justice Department stated it was outside the jurisdiction of the Director of National Intelligence and therefore outside his jurisdiction.
The inspector general also explained that "privileges" were being asserted by the administration, leaving lawmakers with the impression that the White House was directly involved in blocking the information from being turned over to Congress.
Last April, CNN was first to report that the White House had suspended the practice of publishing public summaries of President Trump's phone calls with foreign leaders, though sources said readouts continued to be released internally.
The White House didn’t publish readouts, but would confirm that the calls took place after they were reported by foreign media, though officials rarely elaborated on what was said.
But that suspension has shifted in recent months. The White House has started releasing readouts of the President’s formal calls with leaders once again — including several which are now under scrutiny after a communication between Trump and a foreign leader prompted a whistleblower complaint that is now at the center of a dispute between the director of national intelligence and Congress. It's not clear whether that communication was a phone call.
He’s recently spoken to...
- British Prime Minister Boris Johnson
- Russian President Vladimir Putin
- French President Emmanuel Macron
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
How the readouts work now: The readouts are handled on the National Security Council side, but approved by the West Wing press office before being released. They are often brief with few details.
A National Security Council spokesman declined to immediately elaborate on why the policy changed. It has been in effect for at least the last full month.
One thing to note: Two people familiar with the matter cautioned that there are not readouts for every call the President makes — there are only official readouts for the official calls.
Trump, who has multiple iPhones that aides once joked were “Trump 1” and “Trump 2," has developed a habit in office of calling foreign leaders that he’s developed a personal relationship with, often after hours when most of his staff is not in the office.
Phoning a foreign leader from his iPhone would circumvent the protocols usually in place for a President to phone a foreign leader. The traditional practice originates in the White House Situation Room, which would establish the phone call on secure lines and patch the leaders together.
House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff said that the Department of Justice has helped withhold the whistleblower's complaint — but said he did not know if the White House was also involved.
"We do know that the Department of Justice has been involved in the decision to withhold that information from Congress," he said. "We do not know — because we cannot get an answer to the question — about whether the White House is also involved in preventing this information from coming to Congress."
He continued: We do not have the complaint, we do not know whether the press reports are accurate or inaccurate about the contents of that complaint.
The White House and the Department of Justice have advised the nation's top intelligence agency that the controversial complaint is outside intelligence activities as covered by laws governing intelligence whistleblowers, according to three sources familiar with the matter.
The revelation is the first known evidence of the White House's involvement.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said he didn't know whether the White House was involved.
The inspector general for the intelligence community, who is currently meeting with the House Intelligence Committee, has so far been unwilling to share details of the controversial whistleblower complaint, according to multiple sources.
Michael Atkinson has been telling the committee that he is not allowed to provide details of the substance of the complaint because he was not authorized to do so, the sources said. He is discussing the process for his handling whistleblower concerns.
The briefing, which is behind closed doors, was described in advance by Chairman Adam Schiff as focusing on the “handling” of the complaint. But lawmakers have been pressing for details nonetheless — though their efforts have so far gone unanswered.
Some context: The inspector general does not have the authority to discuss the details of the complaint with Congress because the director of National Intelligence has not shared the actual report with the committee and has 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.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she trusts House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff's judgement on the whistleblower complaint against President Trump.
The complaint — which details a conversation between President Trump and an unspecified foreign leader — has put House Democrats at odds with Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, who has refused to turn over the complaint to the House Intelligence Committee.
Here's how Pelosi put it:
“I obviously trust the judgment of our committee chair Adam Schiff, and he’s following this very closely with an expert eye on what the law is, what protections there are for whistleblowers, and where does it cross a line of a conversation that the President may have or commitment that he may make for our nation that the public should be aware of,” Pelosi said.
The whistleblower complaint against President Trump has led to a standoff between Congress and acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, who has refused to turn over the complaint to the House Intelligence Committee.
Maguire refused to comply with a Tuesday deadline to hand over the complaint, which had been deemed by the intelligence community inspector general to be "credible and urgent."
Here's what Maguire has agreed to: He said he will testify next week in an open session before the House intelligence Committee.
Adam Schiff, the chairman of the committee, announced Wednesday that Maguire will appear at 9 a.m. on September 26. The California Democrat also announced that the intelligence community inspector general will brief the House committee Thursday behind closed doors about how it handled the whistleblower complaint.
The President just posted a series of tweets apparently in response to the report that a whistleblower made a complaint over communications between him and an unidentified foreign leader.
Here are his tweets: