Whistleblower hearing live blog: Acting intelligence director defends handling of "unprecedented" whistleblower complaint in House committee today – CBS News
Key takeaways from the hearing
- Whistleblower wrote that White House tried to “lock down” records of Ukraine call.
- Maguire testified the whistleblower “did the right thing,” calling the situation “unprecedented.”
- Maguire defended his decision to withhold complaint from Congress, saying he was bound by guidance from White House and Justice Department.
- Maguire doesn’t know identity of the whistleblower, and said the president hadn’t asked him to find out who it is.
The nation’s top intelligence official faced pointed questions from lawmakers on Thursday morning over his decision to withhold a whistleblower’s complaint about a phone call between President Trump and Ukraine’s leader that has prompted congressional Democrats to open a formal impeachment inquiry.
Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, testified for more than three hours before the House Intelligence Committee to discuss the complaint, a declassified version of which was released publicly just minutes before the hearing began.
“I respect you, I respect this committee and I welcome and take seriously the committee’s oversight role,” Maguire, who served in the Navy for 36 years, said in his opening statement. “I am not partisan, I am not political.”
The 9-page document includes explosive claims about the president’s actions and efforts by the White House to “lock down” a verbatim transcript of the July 25 call between Mr. Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which Mr. Trump urged his counterpart to reopen an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
The whistleblower did not hear the call directly or have access to the summary, but learned details from unspecified “White House officials,” according to the complaint. Maguire testified the whistleblower’s account was largely in line with the summary of the call released by the Justice Department on Wednesday.
Maguire defended his handling of the case since he learned about the complaint in August, arguing he was bound by the Justice Department’s opinion that the complaint was not required to be given to Congress. He largely avoided commenting on the substance of the complaint itself, instead deferring to the judgment of the intelligence community inspector general, who had previously determined the complaint to be credible and an “urgent concern.”
Democrats pressed Maguire on his reasoning, pointing to a federal statute stating the director of national intelligence “shall” provide whistleblower complaints to Congress if the inspector general finds they constitute an “urgent concern.” Maguire said he brought the matter to the White House and the Justice Department since the allegations contained in the complaint did not fall under his jurisdiction, arguing the president is not a member of the intelligence community.
“I had to work with what I had,” Maguire said at one point, calling the situation “unprecedented.”
Maguire said he believed the anonymous whistleblower was acting in good faith and “did the right thing,” and repeatedly stated his commitment to protecting the individual from retaliation. He said he did not know the individual’s identity, and denied that anyone from the White House or Justice Department had asked him to find out.