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.
The onset of summer has sparked a rise in incidents of “mask rage” in South Korea as more hot and bothered commuters either refuse to wear face coverings or leave parts of their faces exposed. In South Korea, Japan and other countries in East Asia, widespread mask wearing has been cited as one possible explanation for the region’s relative success in bringing the COVID-19 pandemic under control. South Korea, one of the first countries outside China to be affected by the virus, flattened the coronavirus curve in April, although it is now struggling with dozens of daily cases, mainly in and around
‘WOULD NOT COMPLY’: The company’s user data are kept in Singapore and it would not turn the data over to Beijing even if asked, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said Social media app TikTok has distanced itself from Beijing after India banned 59 Chinese apps in the country, according to a correspondence seen by Reuters. In a letter to the Indian government dated on Sunday last week and seen by Reuters on Friday, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said the Chinese government has never requested user data, nor would the company turn it over if asked. TikTok, which is not available in China, is owned by China’s ByteDance, but has sought to distance itself from its Chinese roots to appeal to a global audience. Along with 58 other Chinese apps, including Tencent
‘FIGHT FOR FREEDOM’: Hong Kongers will never bow to Beijing, the advocate said, while the US’ envoy to the territory called China’s new security law a ‘tragedy’ The world must stand in solidarity with Hong Kongers after Beijing imposed sweeping national security legislation on the semi-autonomous territory, advocate Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) said yesterday, vowing to continue campaigning for democracy. Wong, one of the territory’s most prominent young advocates and a figure loathed by Beijing, was speaking outside a court where he and fellow advocates are being prosecuted for involvement in last year’s pro-democracy protests. China last week enacted sweeping security legislation for the restless territory, banning acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. The legislation has sent a wave of fear through the territory, and criminalized dissenting
CHANGING PERCEPTIONS: In its tender, the Hong Kong administration said that it had failed to ‘mobilise the community to support law enforcement actions’ The Hong Kong government has agreed to pay millions of pounds to a discreet London-based PR firm to counter coverage of the territory in the international media. Consulum, which has also represented Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was on Monday awarded the ￡5 million (US$6.2 million) one-year contract to improve Hong Kong’s reputation — the same day that China passed national security legislation targeting the territory. The Mayfair-based PR business was founded by Tim Ryan and Matthew Gunther Bushell, two former employees of Bell Pottinger, an agency that has been criticized for representing some governments and leaders that other businesses