Chuck Ross on September 19, 2019
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff threatened Thursday to sue the Trump administration over an intelligence official’s whistleblower complaint, which the director of national intelligence has refused to provide to Congress.
“I would imagine if it comes down that we have to go to court to get this, that we will have a very good case to seek a temporary restraining order … or some form of relief because the inspector general has said this can not wait,” Schiff told reporters after members of the committee met privately with Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG) Michael Atkinson.
“This is not a situation where we can afford to go through weeks or months of litigation in this court or that court. There’s an urgency here that I think the courts will recognize. I hope that’s not necessary,” Schiff said after the three-hour meeting.
The details of the complaint remain a mystery. Schiff said that Atkinson said he was unable to provide additional information about the complaint. Atkinson also declined to confirm a Washington Post report that the complaint, filed on Aug. 12, involves a phone call that President Donald Trump had with a foreign leader.
According to The Post, the whistleblower was alarmed that Trump made a “promise” to the leader, who has not been identified.
Atkinson deemed the complaint “urgent,” meaning that ICIG and ODNI are legally required to turn it over to Congress. But Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, has refused to provide it to Congress, saying that it involves privileged communications involving someone outside the intelligence community.
That has led to a standoff between Schiff and Maguire.
Trump himself denied having any improper conversations with world leaders. And while most former intelligence officials have weighed in negatively against Trump on cable TV and social media, some former intelligence community officials have said Trump has a wide berth to say what he wants to foreign leaders.
Phil Mudd, a CNN analyst and former CIA and FBI official, called the whistleblower a “snitch” during a CNN segment Wednesday night.
“The president can say what he wants. It’s not the responsibility of the intel guys to go police the president and go snitch on him to the Congress. Ridiculous!”
Andrew Bakaj, who represents the whistleblower, did not respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
Schiff said at a press conference that Atkinson was unable to provide many details about the complaint because of the restrictions imposed by the director of national intelligence. He also said that the Justice Department’s office of legal counsel had instructed ODNI to withhold the complaint because it involved privileged communications.
The Democrat said it is unclear if the White House is involved in the decision.
“We do know the Department of Justice has been involved in the decision to withhold that information from Congress. We do not know, because we cannot get an answer to the question, about whether the White House is also involved in preventing this information from coming to Congress,” Schiff said.