'Overwhelmingly urgent and frightening': Trump's promise to a foreign leader was reportedly 'so troubling' a whistleblower is sounding the alarms

News & Politics

House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-NY) revealed last weekend that an intelligence community whistleblower has been stymied by the director of national intelligence while trying to push through a formal complaint about an undisclosed "urgent" matter. And on Wednesday night, the Washington Post broke a story citing anonymous officials claiming to reveal the explosive outlines of that claim — which reportedly centers on President Donald Trump and an unnamed foreign leader.


"Trump’s interaction with the foreign leader included a 'promise' that was regarded as so troubling that it prompted an official in the U.S. intelligence community to file a formal whistleblower complaint with the inspector general for the intelligence community, said the officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly," the Post reported.

The Post did not share further details about the promise or the foreign leader, though it said one former official claimed the communications occurred over the phone.

Dan Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, has refused to turn over the official complaint to Congress, citing a higher authority directing him not to and claiming a protected privilege.

However, Schiff has argued that Maguire's refusal violates the law. The intelligence inspector general determined the whistleblower's complaint was credible and of "urgent concern," which triggers reporting to the proper congressional oversight bodies. Inspector General Michael Atkinson went to the House and Senate intelligence committees to notify them about the existence of the whistleblower, even while he was unable to give any details about the actual complaint.

When Schiff went public with the dispute, many immediately assumed the issue regarded the president or his inner circle. The president is the only official directly superior to the director of national intelligence, and thus the only plausible higher authority that could order the DNI around. The claim of "privilege" and the assertion that the complaint concerned "conduct by someone outside of the Intelligence Community" also suggested the president could be involved.

The Post reported that the complaint was filed on Aug. 12 and that "the president has spoken with at least five foreign leaders in the preceding five weeks":

Among them was a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin that the White House initiated on July 31. Trump also received at least two letters from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during the summer, describing them as “beautiful” messages. In June, Trump said publicly that he was opposed to certain CIA spying operations against North Korea. Referring to a Wall Street Journal report that the agency had recruited Kim’s half-brother, Trump said, “I would tell him that would not happen under my auspices.”

"This is now an overwhelmingly urgent and frightening matter," said Susan Hennessey, executive editor of Lawfare, in response to the report. "Congress must be provided absolutely all of the relevant information, immediately."

"Yet another set of troubling arguments - confidentiality & privilege - that raise serious challenges to Congressional oversight," said MSNBC legal analyst Maya Wiley of the refusal to hand over the complaint.

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