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Whistleblower Says DHS Officials Pushed Him to Alter Intel Assessments to Match Trump's Statements

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Whistleblower Says DHS Officials Pushed Him to Alter Intel Assessments to Match Trump's Statements

2020-09-10 16:07:48

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Chad Wolf (Image source: Public domain)

Almost one year to the day of finding out about the whistleblower's report regarding Donald Trump's phone call with Ukraine, another explosive whistleblower complaint has come to light. The former acting under secretary in the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Intelligence and Analysis is alleging he was pushed to alter intelligence to match the president's statements.

On Wednesday the House Intelligence committee announced that it received a whistleblower reprisal complaint from Brian Murphy, the former DHS official.

The complaint claims that in a collection of protected disclosures over the past two years, Murphy expressed concern of "a repeated pattern of abuse of authority, attempted censorship of intelligence analysis and improper administration of an intelligence program to Russian efforts to influence and undermine United States interests."

Several officials and former officials are called out in the complaint. This includes former DHS secretary Kirstjen Nielsen; acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf; DHS Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli; Nielsen's former chief of staff, Miles Taylor; and the acting deputy director of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Kash Patel.

Murphy claims that earlier this year he was told to stop providing intelligence assessments about the Russian election interference threat and focus instead on China and Iran as threats. The orders came from Wolf, but they were initially from White House National Security adviser Robert O'Brien. Murphy did not fulfill the request.

Murphy was also allegedly told in July that the intelligence notification on Russian disinformation efforts should be " 'held' because it 'made the president look bad.' " Murphy refused to comply once again and stated "that it was improper to hold a vetted intelligence product for reasons for political embarrassment."

Murphy faced retaliation for refusing to comply. "In response, Mr. Wolf took steps to exclude Mr. Murphy from relevant future meetings on the subject. The draft product was eventually completed without Mr. Murphy's involvement and was made public in a leak to the media by unknown individuals," reads the complaint.

The leak made it appear that Russia's election inference was equal to that of Iran and China, according to the complaint, and Murphy found that "misleading and inconsistent with the actual intelligence data."

Additionally, he claims he was asked by Wolf and Cuccinelli to modify the intelligence assessments to be sure they matched Trump's public comments about Antifa and "anarchist" groups, and he again refused to company.

Late July was the first time Wolf brought up the idea of reassigning Murphy to the DHS management division, he says. This came amidst media scrutiny that Murphy's office had participated in illegally gathering intelligence on journalists. The complaint alleges that reporting on the topic was "significantly flawed," including reports that contained "completely erroneous assertions."

"For example, DHS I&A never knowingly or deliberately collected information on journalists, at least as far as Mr. Murphy is aware or ever authorized," continues the complaint.

Murphy explains Wolf dismissed the reports as being without merit yet also said moving him to another office would be good for him politically because Wolf wanted to move from interim DHS secretary to a permanent position as DHS secretary.

"Mr. Murphy stated that such a reassignment for political gain would constitute an abuse of authority by Mr. Wolf," reads the complaint.

Murphy was reassigned, he says, to the role of assistant to the deputy under secretary for the DHS management division. He sees it as a retaliatory demotion.

DHS denied the allegations laid out in the report. "The Department generally does not comment on the specifics of OIG referrals, but we flatly deny that there is any truth to the merits of Mr. Murphy's claim. DHS looks forward to the results of any resulting investigation, and we expect it will conclude that no retaliatory action was taken against Mr. Murphy," DHS spokesperson Alexei Woltornist said in a statement.

"As Acting Secretary Wolf outlined in his State of the Homeland Address today, DHS is working to address all threats to the homeland regardless of ideology. The Acting Secretary is focused on thwarting election interference from any foreign powers and attacks from any extremist group," the statement continued.

Democrats are following up on the complaint and want to talk with Murphy. House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA) issued a subpoena for his deposition on September 21.

"The whistleblower retaliation complaint filed by former Acting Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis Brian Murphy outlines grave and disturbing allegations that senior White House and Department of Homeland Security officials improperly sought to politicize, manipulate, and censor intelligence in order to benefit President Trump politically," said Schiff in a statement. 

"This puts our nation and its security at grave risk."

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