During the hearing, Democratic members have pressed Acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Joseph Maguire on why he did not provide the whistleblower complaint to the committee within the seven-day period required by law.
As the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act of 1998 states, if the Inspector General determines that the complaint is credible and of urgent concern then the DNI “shall, within 7 calendar days…forward such transmittal to the intelligence committees.”
The IG determined the complaint was credible on August 26. Yet Maguire didn’t provide it to Congress until Wednesday night, September 25 -- almost a month later.
Maguire claimed that because the complaint involved the President, he was required to work with the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel to determine if there was content protected by executive privilege in the complaint.
"It appeared that it also had matters of executive privilege," Maguire told the committee.
On September 24, the OLC issued an opinion refuting the IG’s determination that the whistleblower’s complaint was of urgent concern.
Maguire said that while the complaint was forwarded to the FBI, he was attempting to work out executive privilege concerns. But the law says nothing about the President or the OLC having authority to stop or slow the complaint from being sent to the intelligence committees.
Presidential authority over confidential information has long been a point of dispute between Congress and the executive branch, and the legality surrounding it remains unclear. In fact, when President Bill Clinton signed the intel community whistleblower act, he said that the law “does not constrain my constitutional authority to review and, if appropriate, control disclosure of certain classified information to Congress.”
So while the law is seemingly quite clear, the OLC argued that the law “does not cover every alleged violation of federal law or other abuse that comes to the attention of a member of the intelligence community,” especially when it concerns activity outside of a specific agency’s purview.