Acting DNI Defends His Role In Handling Of Whistleblower Complaint
NOEL KING, HOST:
Right now, the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, is testifying before the House intelligence committee. He's had some testy back-and-forth with committee Chairman Adam Schiff. Take a listen to that.
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ADAM SCHIFF: Can we agree that it was urgent?
JOSEPH MAGUIRE: It was urgent and important, but my job, as the director of national intelligence, was to comply with the Whistleblower Protection Act and adhere to the definition of urgent concern, which is a legal term.
KING: Mr. Maguire is testifying about a whistleblower complaint that involves President Trump. This complaint alleges that the president misused his office for personal gain and that unidentified White House officials tried to cover it up. Now, a couple hours ago, the committee unsealed that whistleblower complaint and a supplemental letter from the intelligence community's inspector general.
NPR's national security reporter - correspondent Greg Myre has been following all of this avidly. Hey, Greg.
GREG MYRE, BYLINE: Hi, Noel.
KING: OK. So yesterday, we had a rough transcript of a phone call between President Trump and Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Now, we have this whistleblower complaint, which gives us some more information. What's new? What do we know new today?
MYRE: It provides a lot of context around that phone call on July 25, and it points to the fact that that phone call was really the culmination of months of developments. You had the president's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, making multiple contacts with Iranian - excuse me, Ukrainian officials and effectively acting as an envoy of sorts. You had the suspension of military aid to Ukraine. You had the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine coming back early a few months, leaving her - leaving the embassy without an ambassador of - and in some sense, Rudy Giuliani seemed to be moving in in coordination with the State Department. So all this context around it that led up to the phone call on July 25.
KING: OK. And so what have we heard Mr. Maguire say this morning?
MYRE: So he's tried to defend his role where he is required to pass on whistleblower complaints to Congress. And he did notify them that there was a complaint, but he didn't reveal the contents. And he sort of got into this legal back-and-forth of whether it meant a legal definition. He went to the White House. He went to the Justice Department seeking legal guidance.
Adam Schiff, the committee chairman, has been pushing back. But Maguire was very clear that this whistleblower, who is in the intelligence committee - in the intelligence community, I should say - acted properly. Let's hear what he had to say.
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MAGUIRE: I believe the whistleblower is operating in good faith...
SCHIFF: Well, then they couldn't be...
MAGUIRE: ...Has followed the law.
SCHIFF: ...They couldn't be in good faith if they were acting as a political hack, could they?
MAGUIRE: Mr. Chairman, my job is to support and lead the entire intelligence community. That individual works for me. Therefore, it is my job to make sure that I support and defend that person.
MYRE: So as you heard, Adam Schiff interjecting there, that's because President Trump has said this was a partisan person. And Adam Schiff was saying he's not a partisan person. Maguire said, no, he believes they've been acting in good faith. And he also made clear he doesn't know who the whistleblower is.
KING: Yes, and that is an interesting thing to point out. The person who - the people who do know the - who the whistleblower is - it would be the whistleblower's lawyer and the inspector general, right?
MYRE: That's right. You know, we don't know if others may know as well, but it seems that's about it so far. And so the question has come up...
KING: Yeah, will the whistleblower testify, right?
MYRE: Exactly. Exactly. Maguire said he's working on that. He doesn't seem to object to it. There are some clearance - security clearance concerns they seem to working on. If the whistleblower did testify, it would almost certainly be in a closed session, not in an open public session. But clearly, that's what the committee would like to do.
KING: NPR's Greg Myre. Thank you so much.
MYRE: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.