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By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image Joseph Maguire (Image source: Public domain)
While much of the country has been enveloped in the stories coming out of the special counsel investigation of Donald Trump's campaign and initial time in office, there are other instances, or at least one in particular, that they will now be interested in investigating.
A whistleblower complained about a communication between Donald Trump and a foreign leader, and that complaint is now caught up in a dispute between the director of national intelligence and Congress, according to a source who is familiar with the case.
It was reported that an American intelligence official was so upset by a "promise" Trump made to a foreign leader, that the office filed a formal whistleblower complaint with the intelligence inspector general.
The foreign leader who spoke with Trump was not disclosed by the source.
Not surprisingly, Trump dismissed the story on Thursday morning and asked if there was "anybody dumb enough to believe" the story.
"Virtually anytime I speak on the phone to a foreign leader, I understand that there may be many people listening from various U.S. agencies, not to mention those from the other country itself," tweeted the president. "No problem!"
"Knowing all of this, is anybody dumb enough to believe that I would say something inappropriate with a foreign leader while on such a potentially 'heavily populated' call. I would only do what is right anyway and only do good for the USA!" continued Trump.
He may not want to venture into questions of whether anyone would believe he would say something inappropriate.
The complaint itself is unknown, and the fight between the House Intelligence Committee and Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire has been noted by the Intelligence panel chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA).
He wrote in a letter to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence last week that from everything he's learned, he believes "the serious misconduct at issue involves the President of the United States and/or other senior White House or Administration officials."
Filed on August 12, this is the first time a complaint has been lodged in this matter. White House records show the president had spoken to or interacted with five foreign leaders in the five weeks before the complaint was filed.
He interacted with Russian President Vladimir Putin, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, the prime minister of Pakistan, the prime minister of the Netherlands, and the Emir of Qatar. It's unknown which of these foreign officials is mentioned in the complaint.
Maguire has refused to turn over the complaint to Schiff's committee. However, he agreed to testify next week in an open session before the committee after missing a Tuesday deadline to turn in the initial complaint. The intelligence community inspector general has determined the complaint is "credible and urgent."
Schiff announced that Maguire will appear on September 26 before his committee and added that the inspector general will brief the committee behind closed doors about the how the complaint was handled.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence sent letters to Schiff and ranking Republican Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) on Tuesday explaining that Maguire was refusing to comply while also saying he wouldn't be obeying the schedule of the committee, as he is not available on such short notice."
Yet later on Wednesday a compromise was reached. Maguire will be questioned by lawmakers over concerns Trump may have violated whistleblower protections and whether Trump or top administration officials were involved.
The letter to Schiff dated Tuesday notes that the complaint doesn't involve anyone in the intelligence community and only stakeholders within the Executive Branch, so they don't believe it is an "urgent concern."
Schiff said in a statement on Tuesday that the "IC IG determined that the complaint is both credible and urgent, which is why the Committee must move quickly,' adding that the committee's position is clear.
Maguire must either provide the complaint as required or go before the committee to discuss why he is not following the law. Noting that he hasn't responded yet, Maguire added, "I expect him to appear on Thursday, under subpoena if necessary.
Regardless of hearing the complaint next week, Schiff still believes it should be handed over to Congress.
"The IC IG determined that this complaint is both credible and urgent and that it should be transmitted to Congress under the clear letter of the law. The committee places the highest importance on the protection of whistleblowers and their complaints to Congress," said the chairman.
He is insisting that Maguire turn over the inspector general's "determination and all records pertaining to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence's (ODNI) involvement in this matter, including any and all correspondence with other Executive Branch actors such as the White House."
The chairman also believes that Maguire acted outside of his authority by consulting with the Justice Department with regard to the complaint.
A source said the Intelligence Community Whistleblowers Protection Act only offers one option in moving forward: to circumvent the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and turning over the complaint directly into the hands of the committee.
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