Top Trump official denies report that he threatened to quit over the administration's stonewalling of whistleblower complaint

Top Trump official denies report that he threatened to quit over the administration's stonewalling of whistleblower complaint
News & Politics

Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire threatened to resign from the Trump administration out of fear that the White House might direct him to stymie Congress's investigation into a whistleblower complaint concerning the president's efforts to pressure the Ukrainian president to investigate Joe Biden, according to a new report from the Washington Post. However, after publication, Maguire denied the report.

Maguire has found himself at the center of the controversy surrounding President Donald Trump's dealings with Ukraine and the whistleblower complaint. Federal law requires that, after the intelligence community inspector general determines that a complaint is of "urgent concern" — as the inspector general has concluded in this case — the DNI must hand the information over to Congress. But Maguire instead consulted with the Justice Department, and together they concluded that the complaint does not fall within the DNI's jurisdiction; on that basis, he has refused to hand over the materials.

That has earned him a fair amount of criticism from the commentariat, but there's reason to doubt that Maguire is simply acting as a fervent Trump partisan. Rather, he may just be an official trying to navigate a vexing situation. He became the acting director only after former DNI Dan Coats resigned, and Trump forced out his deputy Sue Gordon, who was next in line for the job. It's not clear Maguire was ever angling for the high-profile position — which is much more high-profile now than it usually is.

If he was willing to stand up to Trump and not abet his effort to stonewall congressional investigations on principle, as the report claims, then he may be more of an independent actor than it first appeared.

The report cited "current and former U.S. officials familiar with the matter."

"The officials said that Joseph Maguire, who was thrust into the top intelligence post last month, warned the White House that he was not willing to withhold information from Congress, where he is scheduled to testify in open and closed hearings on Thursday," the report found. "The move was in part designed to force the White House to make an explicit legal decision on whether it was going to assert executive privilege over the whistleblower complaint, which centers on a call that Trump made with the leader of Ukraine in late July."

The report went on to say Maguire told the White House he felt he was in an "untenable position." It isn't clear, though, whether his reported threat to resign changed the White House's position on his testimony.

But in a statement after the Post piece was published, Maguire denied its reporting.

“At no time have I considered resigning my position since assuming this role on Aug. 16, 2019. I have never quit anything in my life, and I am not going to start now," he said. "I am committed to leading the Intelligence Community."

This story has been updated to include Maguire's denial.

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