Sat, Sep 21, 2019 - Page 6 News List

White House blocks ‘urgent’ disclosure

WHISTLE-BLOWER ALLEGATIONS:The intelligence committee chairman said that he would go to court to force the Trump administration to open up about the complaint

AP, WASHINGTON

US President Donald Trump’s administration on Thursday plunged into an extraordinary showdown with the US Congress over access to a whistle-blower’s complaint about reported incidents including a private conversation between Trump and a foreign leader.

The blocked complaint is “serious” and “urgent,” the government’s intelligence watchdog said.

The administration is keeping Congress from even learning what exactly the whistle-blower is alleging, but US Inspector General of the Intelligence Community Michael Atkinson said the matter involves the “most significant” responsibilities of intelligence leadership.

A lawmaker said that the complaint was “based on a series of events.”

The Washington Post and the New York Times on Thursday evening reported that at least part of the complaint involves Ukraine.

The newspapers cited anonymous sources familiar with the matter.

Atkinson on Thursday appeared behind closed doors before the US House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, but declined under administration orders to reveal to members the substance of the complaint.

The standoff raises fresh questions about the extent to which Trump’s allies are protecting the president from oversight, and specifically, if his new acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, is working with the US Department of Justice to shield the president from the reach of Congress.

Trump, not giving any details about any incident, said that he would ever “say something inappropriate” on such a call.

House intelligence committee Chairman Adam Schiff said that he was prepared to go to court to try to force the Trump administration to open up about the complaint.

“The inspector general has said this cannot wait,” said Schiff, describing the administration’s blockade as an unprecedented departure from law. “There’s an urgency here that I think the courts will recognize.”

Schiff said he, too, could not confirm whether newspaper reports were accurate, because the administration was claiming executive privilege in withholding the complaint.

However, letters from the inspector general to the committee said it was an “urgent” matter of “serious or flagrant abuse” that must be shared with lawmakers.

The letters also made it clear that Maguire consulted with the justice department in deciding not to transmit the complaint to Congress in a further departure from standard procedure.

House Democrats are fighting the administration separately for access to witnesses and documents in impeachment probes.

Democrats are also looking into whether Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani traveled to Ukraine to pressure the government to aid the president’s re-election effort by investigating the activities of potential rival Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, who worked for a Ukrainian gas company.

During an interview on CNN on Thursday, Giuliani was asked whether he had asked Ukraine to look into Biden.

“Of course I did,” Giuliani said.

Later, Giuliani tweeted, “A President telling a Pres-elect of a well known corrupt country he better investigate corruption that affects US is doing his job.”

Among the materials Democrats have sought in that investigation is the transcript of a phone call Trump had with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on July 25.

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