Adam Schiff wrote his strongest demand as select committee on intelligence majority leader, yesterday, in response to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) ODNI’s decision to withhold a whistleblower complaint already deemed “credible” and of “urgent concern,” according to the ODNI’s own Inspector General. Under the current operative statute, the “acting” Director of National Intelligence, Joseph McGuire, must forward to congress all complaints affirmed by the inspector general’s office as credible and urgent.. No exceptions.
Not only has the DNI not passed the complaint to Congress, it has informed Schiff that it will not be forwarding the complaint, despite the clear law and clear past practices. It is difficult to appreciate the DNI’s brazen attitude without reading Schiff’s words in the follow-up subpoena issued yesterday:
“Even though the disclosure was made by an individual within the Intelligence Community through lawful channels, you have improperly withheld that disclosure on the basis that, in your view, the complaint concerns conduct by someone outside of the Intelligence Community and because the complaint involves confidential and potentially privileged communications. In a further departure from the statute, your office consulted the Department of Justice about the complaint, even though the statute does not provide you discretion to review, appeal, reverse, or countermand in any way the IC IG’s independent determination, let alone to involve another entity within the Executive Branch in the handling of a whistleblower complaint. Your office, moreover, has refused to affirm or deny that officials or lawyers at the White House have been involved in your decision to withhold the complaint from the Committee. You have also refused to rule out to me that the urgent concern, and underlying conduct, relates to an area of active investigation by the Committee.
That high-pitched whistle you hear is the last bit of our democracy’s oxygen slipping out into the dictatorial vacuum.
Under the law, the director has no role here. Once he receives the complaint from his Inspector General, he must pass the complaint to Congress. All other concerns, privileges, third parties, are dealt with by the Inspector General and Congress itself.
Speaking of “third parties,” you did note that the director went to Barr’s Justice Department? It took an intelligence director in this administration to call the president’s lawyer, at the DOJ. Hint, the National Intelligence agencies have some of the best lawyers on the planet. They “consulted” the Attorney General’s office because they wanted this complaint suppressed, so they called the suppression professionals, the people who believe that every utterance made in the executive branch is privileged from congress. The Director also probably wanted to ensure that – should all this go bad – he had the federal prosecutors at his side when charges come about.
Oh, the other “third-party” you surely noticed? The White House itself. One can bet that if the ODNI had not contacted the White House in the matter, it would have gladly told Schiff that it had not. Thus, the entire reason for having “whistleblower statutes,” to protect individuals who come forward, and to prevent releasing the matter to the most powerful, has been subverted. Not only does it place this “whistleblower” in danger of losing his or her job (or worse), it sends a message to anyone considering initiating a whistleblower complaint.
Schiff knows exactly what is going on:
“The Committee can only conclude, based on this remarkable confluence of factors, that the serious misconduct at issue involves the President of the United States and/or other senior White House or Administration officials. This raises grave concerns that your office, together with the Department of Justice and possibly the White House, are engaged in an unlawful effort to protect the President and conceal from the Committee information related to his possible “serious or flagrant” misconduct, abuse of power, or violation of law.
Director McGuire is subpoenaed to appear before the committee on Thursday to explain himself. That ought to be must-see TV, except we have come to expect that he will simply ignore the subpoena. That is what they do
They are attempting to run out the clock. The Republicans must somehow try to drag Trump over the finish line in 2020, and then declare that the election vitiated any concern about “law breaking” since the public just re-elected Trump.
I am not at all sure about Pelosi’s actual endgame here, whether she is simply playing dead because she knows she wants this really heating up late this year and into next, or whether she’s just terrified of her own shadow, like all too many Democrats since Reagan.
I do know this. I know that Adam Schiff knows exactly what is in that complaint. He knows it exists, after all, and that alone tells us that he “knows” what is being withheld. He has been tipped-off. And Schiff, the person who “knows” what is going on, has put pen to paper and said he must conclude it involves covering-up something that both involves Trump and relates to something the committee is already investigating. He knows he is being played and he is putting Barr and the White House on notice.
This type of stuff just doesn’t happen in real democracies. Giving oneself new obligations out of the blue is not a government by law, but one of “men,” like Trump, Barr, McGuire and whomever else. Actions like this generally occurred elsewhere, until now.
Ask yourself how many times you awoke to hearing that the Republican House and Jason Chaffetz determined they would open a new Benghazi committee? How many times did Hillary Clinton testify? All others in Obama’s administration, explaining themselves? Many times.
That was before Trump.
Trump’s best friends are dictators above the law. He has never cared about legal obligations, all the way down to stiffing sub-contractors. He continually sets new precedents, denying congressional access to his tax returns despite a clear legal obligation. The entire institutional fortitude of our democracy is undergoing its greatest stress test since the 1850s. Adam Schiff, at least, seems prepared to handle it head on.
He knows what’s in that complaint, and he is waving a red flag as hard as he can. Schiff will not tell us exactly what’s in the complaint, yet, because he still respects the laws that he intends to protect.
**** UPDATED: I am not the only one who has noticed the importance of this matter, some updates from Twitter
Adam Schiff is onto something big. He’s not allowed to say what it is, but it sounds like Trump or someone close to him gave crucial classified information to an enemy nation, someone blew the whistle on him, and Barr covered it up. If Schiff can get his hands on the paperwork…
— Palmer Report (@PalmerReport) September 14, 2019
— Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw) September 14, 2019
There is speculation – and ONLY speculation – that the matter involves selling U.S. secrets abroad by someone HIGH in the Trump admin, and do recall that the letter referenced “third parties” not in the intelligence community, or perhaps even “government.” One wonders.
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