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A major whistleblower complaint at the US's top spy agency involves a Trump phone call with a 'promise' to a foreign leader

Sonam Sheth , Business Insider US
 Sep 19, 2019, 10:31 AM
President Donald Trump on the phone in the Oval Office.
  • US President, Donald Trump is the subject of a whistleblower complaint of "urgent concern" that was filed in the intelligence community in August, the Washington Post reported Wednesday night.
  • The whistleblower lodged the complaint because they were deeply troubled by a phone call Trump had with a foreign leader, and in particular, a "promise" Trump made during the call.
  • The House Intelligence Committee has demanded a full, unredacted copy of the complaint, but the Office of the Director of National Intelligence is refusing to turn it over.
  • The acting director of national intelligence will testify publicly before the committee on September 26, and the Intelligence Community Inspector General (IC IG) will testify in a closed session on Thursday.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za

President Donald Trump is the subject of a whistleblower complaint of "urgent concern" that was filed with the Intelligence Community Inspector General (IC IG) in August, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday.

Specifically, someone within the intelligence community was concerned by a phone call that Trump had with a foreign leader, which included a "promise" that was so deeply troubling to that official that they decided to lodge a formal whistleblower complaint with the IC IG.

It's not clear who the leader was or what the substance of Trump's promise was, but the revelation raises new questions about the president's handling of classified information. It could also put more strain on Trump's already-tense relationship with the US intelligence community.

The Post reported that Trump interacted with at least five foreign leaders in the five weeks before the whistleblower filed their complaint: Russian President Vladimir Putin, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan, Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte, and Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the emir of Qatar.

Putin is the only one Trump is known to have spoken on the phone with, a call Trump initiated.

The House Intelligence Committee is fighting with the Trump administration to obtain the full complaint

Rep. Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, first revealed the existence of the complaint last week, when he subpoenaed the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, to turn over the full complaint to the committee in accordance with federal law.

The IC IG determined that the complaint was credible and a matter of "urgent concern." But the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) overruled the IC IG after consulting with the Justice Department and concluding that the complaint does not fit the definition of "urgent concern" under federal law.

The definition concerns serious allegations related to "the funding, administration or operation of an intelligence activity within the responsibility and authority" of the director of national intelligence, ODNI general counsel Jason Klitenic wrote in the letter.

"This complaint, however, concerned conduct by someone outside the Intelligence Community and did not relate to any 'intelligence activity' under the DNI's supervision," Klitenic added. For that reason, after consulting with the Justice Department, the agency concluded it was not required to forward the complaint to the intelligence committees.

Schiff said on Tuesday that Klitenic's letter added to concerns that the ODNI was acting to shield Trump or someone in his inner circle from public scrutiny.

In addition to flagging the complaint with the Justice Department - which is unusual in and of itself for matters like these - Maguire also refused to comment on whether the White House was involved in the decision to withhold the complaint from the House Intelligence Committee, and whether it related to any matters being investigated by the panel.

Schiff said on CBS News' "Face the Nation" Sunday that Maguire said he was not turning over the complaint, even though federal law mandates it, "because he is being instructed not to" and "answering to a higher authority" on the matter.

"This involved a higher authority, someone above the DNI," Schiff said, alluding to Trump. "Well, there are only a few people above the DNI."

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