Acting Director Of National Intelligence Testifies On Whistleblower Complaint

Sep 26, 2019
Originally published on September 26, 2019 6:06 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Let's look now at the things we have learned today about President Trump's interest in Ukraine, thanks to two developments this morning. First, Congress declassified and made public a whistleblower's complaint. And minutes later, the acting director of national intelligence gave testimony at an open hearing in the House.

NPR's Ryan Lucas has been following all of this, and he's here in the studio. Hey, Ryan.

RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Hi, there.

SHAPIRO: Things have moved quickly with this story. Let's start with the whistleblower complaint. What does it tell us?

LUCAS: So this is a seven-page document that we're talking about; there's also a two-page appendix on it. And in the complaint, the whistleblower raises concerns - that we have now heard - about President Trump, in a phone call, pressuring the Ukrainian president to investigate Joe Biden. What the whistleblower says about that in this complaint tracks with what we saw yesterday in the memo of the call released by the White House.

But the big new thing in the complaint is an allegation that the White House, in essence, tried to hide evidence of this call. And what the whistleblower says is that after the July 25 phone call with Ukrainian president, White House officials tried to lock down all records of that call. The complaint says that White House lawyers ordered the electronic transcript of the call to be removed from the computer system where such transcripts are typically stored and, instead, had it moved to a separate system used for highly classified, highly sensitive national security-related materials - so not someplace where these communications are usually stored.

SHAPIRO: And there was no sensitive classified national security information in this call, as we've seen...

LUCAS: Exactly.

SHAPIRO: ...Since we got the summary yesterday.

Where does the whistleblower get this information from?

LUCAS: That's a really good question. And the whistleblower says in the complaint that the information comes from more than a dozen U.S. officials over the past four months. The whistleblower makes clear, though, that he or she - we don't know who this is - was not a direct witness to most of the events described. But they say that the account that - sorry - but the accounts that they get from colleagues appear credible and in many cases are consistent with what they heard from more than one person.

SHAPIRO: And consistent with the documents that we've seen in the last couple of days.

LUCAS: Right. And on the specific question of the White House allegedly trying to lock down records of this Ukraine call, the whistleblower says that that information comes from multiple U.S. officials, including folks at the White House.

SHAPIRO: Let's move on from that document to the testimony by the acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire. What stood out to you in that hearing before the House Intelligence Committee today?

LUCAS: There was a lot in here. But at one point - actually over the course of the hearing, really, Democrats took aim at Maguire. They accused him of blocking the complaint from being provided to Congress. There was even the suggestion that he had perhaps done so at the direction of the White House. Now, Maguire denied that he had held this back. He said flat-out the White House had not directed him to withhold it from lawmakers. He said that this whole situation is unprinted - is unprecedented. And it's unprecedented because it involves the president's own communications with a foreign leader. And those communications are covered by executive privilege.

He says he was required by law to work through that with the White House and the Justice Department, and he said that that took time. Now, on the whistleblower, he said the president has not asked him to find out the individual's identity. And Maguire made clear time and again over the course of this hearing that he supports and wants to protect the whistleblower. This is a bit of what he said. Let's hear a listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOSEPH MAGUIRE: I want to stress that I believe that the whistleblower and the inspector general have acted in good faith throughout. I have every reason to believe that they have done everything by the book and followed the law.

SHAPIRO: So Ryan, what are the next steps in this investigation?

LUCAS: So the whistleblower's complaint basically lays out a roadmap of witnesses to interview to get to the bottom of these allegations. There are some big names to talk to, potentially Attorney General William Barr, president's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani. But there are also other folks, White House officials and lawyers, for example, who were allegedly involved in trying to hide the presidential transcripts on this secret computer system. Lawmakers will want to talk to those officials. There are also the officials who listened in on the president's call with the Ukrainian leader. Lawmakers will want to talk to them.

And of course, there's the person at the center of all of this. That's the whistleblower. Maguire said his office is working with the whistleblower's attorneys to get them security clearances so they can be at the whistleblower's side when he or she talks to the congressional intelligence committees.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Ryan Lucas, thank you.

LUCAS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.