Trump slams claims he 'make a promise to foreign leader'
President Donald Trump's director of national intelligence is refusing to turn over to Congress an urgent whistleblower complaint that reportedly concerns Trump making an unspecified promise to a foreign leader, the chairman of the House intelligence committee said today.
Mr Trump, though giving no details about any incident, denied he would ever "say something inappropriate" on such a call.
Rep Adam Schiff, D-Calif, said he could not confirm whether the report from The Washington Post was accurate because the administration was claiming privilege in withholding the complaint, even though the intelligence community's inspector general said it was an "urgent" matter of "serious or flagrant abuse" that must be shared with lawmakers.
Why the claim has raised concerns
"There is an effort to prevent this information from getting to Congress," Mr Schiff said, describing it as an unprecedented departure from law.
Mr Schiff said the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, in a further departure from standard procedure, consulted with the Justice Department and perhaps the White House, in deciding not to transmit the complaint to Congress.
Because the director is claiming privileged information, Mr Schiff said he believes the whistleblower's complaint "likely involves the president or people around him".
Mr Schiff spoke to reporters after the intelligence community's inspector general, Michael Atkinson, appeared behind closed doors today but declined to tell the panel the substance of the complaint.
The Washington Post reported the complaint involves an intelligence official's allegation that Mr Trump made the promise to an unidentified foreign leader in a telephone call. The Post cited two anonymous former US officials.
How Trump has responded
The Associated Press has not confirmed the report. Mr Trump dismissed it all.
"Another Fake News story out there - It never ends!" Mr Trump tweeted.
"Virtually anytime I speak on the phone to a foreign leader, I understand that there may be many people listening from various U.S. agencies, not to mention those from the other country itself. No problem!"
He asked: "Is anybody dumb enough to believe that I would say something inappropriate with a foreign leader while on such a potentially "heavily populated" call".
Mr Atkinson testified behind closed doors at the Capitol, but it appeared he did not disclose details to lawmakers.
Instead the appearance mainly involved a discussion of the process for whistleblower complaints, the sources said.
Mr Maguire has refused to discuss details.
Mr Schiff subpoenaed Mr Maguire, saying he was withholding a whistleblower complaint from Congress and questioning whether he had been directed to do so by the White House or the attorney general.
What's expected to happen now
Mr Maguire is expected to testify publicly about the whistleblower complaint on September 26.
Both Mr Atkinson and Mr Maguire are to appear next week before the Senate intelligence committee, according to Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the panel.
Rep Jim Himes, D-Conn., said today on MSNBC that the acting director "broke the law when he decided to basically intercept the inspector general's report to Congress".
That's "never been done before in the history of inspector general reports to the Congress," Rep Himes said.
"And the American people should be worried about that."
Rep Himes said ahead of the meeting that lawmakers are in the uncomfortable position of not knowing any more than what's in the news reports.
"We don't know exactly what is in the substance of this complaint," he said.
"It could be nothing. It could be something very, very serious."
Mr Schiff did not divulge the subject of the complaint, but said the committee "places the highest importance on the protection of whistleblowers and their complaints to Congress".
In a letter Tuesday, the general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Jason Klitenic, wrote that the agency is protecting the whistleblower and argued the allegation does not meet the definition of "urgent concern".
He said the complaint "concerned conduct from someone outside the intelligence community and did not relate to 'intelligence activity' under the DNI's supervision".
Mr Schiff said last week that Mr Maguire is required to share the complaint with Congress and said the attempt to hold it back "raises serious concerns about whether White House, Department of Justice or other executive branch officials are trying to prevent a legitimate whistleblower complaint from reaching its intended recipient, the Congress, in order to cover up serious misconduct".
In issuing a subpoena to Mr Maguire last week, Mr Schiff outlined the situation.
He wrote that days earlier the inspector general sent a letter to the Intelligence Committee notifying it of the existence of a whistleblower complaint. The next day, Mr Schiff requested to see it.
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