Yesterday, we covered the snowballing and serious scandal to suppress a whistleblower complaint originating within the intelligence community. Whistleblower complaints go directly to the inspector general of the agency in question, in this case, the office of the Director of National Intelligence. If the inspector general’s office finds the complaint to be credible, it is referred directly to congress. In this case, the inspector general determined that the complaint was both “credible” and “urgent.”
The law could not possibly be clearer. The Director of National Intelligence must pass the complaint to congress. The law may be silent upon what else might be done with it, but the law mandates one thing only. It must be passed to congress.
Today on Face the Nation, Rep. Adam Schiff said that Acting National Intelligence Director Joseph Maguire told Rep. Schiff that he had been told by a “higher authority” to not turn the complaint over.
This is almost hard to believe, except with this administration.
The fact that someone sitting in such a position, the acting Director of National Intelligence, believes there exists a “higher authority” than the clear law, is an issue with national security ramifications. The entire reason we have “whistleblower” statutes is precisely because higher authorities may damn well want the complaint suppressed! The law specifically contemplates situations where even a president orders someone within the executive branch to do something that helps the president, but hurts the nation.
Situations like this, where we protected the person from the president, allowed us to believe we were a “nation of laws, not men.”
Have absolutely no doubt that this man, Joseph Maguire, has attorneys working for his office that would tell him; “The law says you must pass this along. If you pass it along, and it angers the president, the president may fire you, rightly or wrongly. If you do not pass it along, and it comes out that you wrongly suppressed it, you could be imprisoned. Those are your choices.”
Something caused this director, Joseph Maguire to choose option “A.” At this point in time in our nation, someone at this level of government, believes it is best for him to take his chances on breaking the law, rather than simply passing on a complaint to Congress. He is doing this, even though it certainly is not his problem (presumably) if someone “higher-up” broke the law.
Something has made it “his problem” if he turns over documents implicating some “higher authority.” We know that Trump demands total loyalty from anyone who works “for him.” (The people in government do not work for Trump, but for the American people, but you know what Trump believes. They all work “for him.”)
Unless you are fairly steeped in government and law, it is truly difficult to relate the seriousness of this suppression, and that’s before we even know what’s in the complaint! For all we know, the complaint contains proof that “President” Trump sold U.S. secrets for cold cash, costing American lives. It probably isn’t that blatant, but the point is, we don’t even know what might be within the “urgent” complaint.
Here is someone “fairly steeped” in government and law, professor Lawrence Tribe, perhaps the most respect constitutional law scholar, ever.
A “higher authority” than the Supreme Law of the Land?! The Acting DNI must think he has divine permission to defy an indisputably constitutional Act of Congress. And that’s as scary as it is unprecedented and totally unacceptable.@RepAdamSchiff @ThePlumLineGS https://t.co/vMOA9QA8Kz
— Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw) September 15, 2019
It has “never happened before.”
We know that Maguire sought “counsel” from the already-suspicious Justice Department under William Barr. That may or may not be illegal, as the law does not say that he “cannot” share the information. We suspect that Maguire has shared the complaint with the White House, because his counsel would not “affirm or deny” that it shared the complaint with Trump. Note that answer, “not affirm or deny.” They know they’re in a spot, sharing it with the president. On the one hand they say they were told by a “higher authority” to suppress it, presumably Trump or Barr. On the other hand, they aren’t willing to affirm they shared it with the White House, even though – under their line of thinking – there is no higher authority than Trump.
We also “know” that by refusing to give it to Congress, he broke the law in the clearest sense.
Furthermore, if we have a government stocked with employees of the executive branch who believe that Trump can exercise “higher authority” to say “Don’t do what the law says you must do,” then we are done as a democracy. Or, at the very least, don’t bother even paying for congress anymore, because the law just became whatever Trump last said.
Trump tells the IRS to burn his tax returns? A higher authority overrode the law. Trump tells the director of the CIA to “turn over” everything they have on Russia to Putin? A higher authority just overrode the law. See how this works?
Russia and China have laws on the books, too. But their laws don’t matter if Putin or Xi just ordered someone to ignore them, and it happens all the time. No country truly operates without any laws on the books, it’s just that the laws don’t apply equally to everyone. They are called “dictatorships” and we’re right there.
To “Acting” Director Maguire, former Navy SEAL, I really hope you know what you’re doing. If you’re holding on to a secret that truly does threaten our national security, and you’re ignoring the law because you do not want to upset “higher authorities,” don’t want to risk being seen as “disloyal” to Trump, don’t want to lose your job, that’s called selling your country out. The penalties for doing that are awfully stiff.
Oh, and the statute of limitations on most federal crimes is five years. I hope you realize how many eggs you’ve put in one basket. It is entirely possible that in 2021, you will face a “higher authority,” who is going to apply “the law” by the book.
Last, for the love of all dogs, would every single Democrat in both houses, and maybe even a few Republicans, please just stand-up and demand real action on this? After all, we don’t even know what lawlessness is contained within the complaint. We only know the laws they’re willing to break to keep it secret.
I cannot confirm the timeline, but it is interesting because all so related closely in time:
1. Trump orders Deputy DNI fired (8/9).
2. Whistleblower complaint filed (8/12).
3. DNI leaves job (8/15).
4. ICIG rules whistleblower report properly filed, "urgent," and for Congress's eyes.
5. Acting DNI refuses to give Congress report, citing a "higher authority."
— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) September 15, 2019
firstname.lastname@example.org, and Twitter @MiciakZoom
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.