National intelligence director defends his handling of whistleblower complaint

Acting spy chief Joseph Maguire heads to Capitol Hill where he will publicly discuss the handling of a whistleblower complaint that includes allegations about President Donald Trump's communication with Ukraine.

WASHINGTON —  Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, defended his handling of the whistleblower complaint during testimony in front of the House Intelligence Committee, telling lawmakers he followed the law in an “unprecedented” situation despite claims to the contrary by Democrats that he infringed on their right to review the allegations.

His appearance before the committee and a scheduled closed door briefing before the Senate panel, comes one day after lawmakers had their first chance to see the classified account that spurred Democrats to launch a formal impeachment inquiry. The account was declassified and released Thursday morning.

Maguire said during his testimony he did not have the authority to waive the executive privilege that covered the conversation with Ukraine’s President and would not say whether he discussed the complaint with President Donald Trump.

“My conversations with the President, because I’m the Director of National Intelligence, are privileged and it would be inappropriate for me because it would destroy my relationship with the President in intelligence matters to divulge any of my conversations with the President of the United States,” Maguire said responding to a question from Rep. Jim Himes, a Connecticut Democrat.

When asked later in the hearing if President Trump asked him to disclose the identity of the whistleblower, Maguire told lawmakers,” I can tell you emphatically, no.”

He also said no one else within the White House or DOJ asked him to identify the whistleblower.

Macquire acknowledged that his office consulted with the White House counsel after receiving a complaint detailing allegations about President Trump’s communications with Ukraine, because calls with foreign leaders usually fall under executive privilege. He then raised the issue with the Office of Legal Counsel and Department of Justice, which advised he was not legally bound to provide it to the committee.

“Such calls are typically subject to executive privilege, as a result we consulted with the White House counsel’s office and were advised that much of the information of the complaint was in fact subject to executive privilege,” Maguire said. “A privilege that I do not have the authority to waive. Because of that we were unable to immediately share the details of the complaint with this committee.”

The anticipation ahead of Maguire’s testimony was also amplified by the White House’s decision to release a transcript of Trump’s July 25 phone call with the leader of Ukraine.

That document can be viewed here.

The whistleblower complaint can be found here.

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