President Trump’s carelessness while speaking with foreign officials has been an issue since he took office. But the intelligence community is now sounding the alarm over a concerning conversation between Trump and a foreign leader that could pose a far greater threat than the president confusing a few facts or accidentally revealing something he shouldn’t have.
The Washington Post on Wednesday night reported that a formal “whistleblower” complaint filed by an official in the intelligence community to the intelligence community’s inspector general was related to the president. Not only that, it pertained to a phone call between the president and a foreign leader during which the president made a “promise” so troubling that the official felt he needed to report it. It’s not clear to which foreign leader the president was speaking.
Trump responded to the report, which has since been confirmed by the Wall Street Journal and NBC News, on Twitter, calling the story “Fake News” and asking if anyone “is dumb enough to believe that I would say something inappropriate with a foreign leader while on such a potentially ‘heavily populated’ call.”
….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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 19, 2019
Though Trump’s involvement was only reported on Wednesday, Congress and the intelligence community have been battling over the complaint since last week, when Joseph Maguire, whom Trump named acting director of national intelligence last month, blocked the House Intelligence Committee from receiving its contents, which were deemed “urgent” and “credible” by the intelligence community’s inspector general. On Friday, Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) issued a subpoena for Maguire to turn over the complaint. He didn’t.
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“The director has said he’s answering to a higher authority and refusing to turn over the complain,” Schiff said Sunday on Face the Nation. “This is deeply troubling. No DNI has ever refused to turn over a whistleblower complaint. The significance is that the inspector general found this complain to be urgent, found it to be credible … and that it involves serious or flagrant wrongdoing. According to the director of national intelligence, the reason he’s not acting to provide it, even though the statute mandates that he do so, is because he’s being instructed not to and that this involves a higher authority.”
Schiff on Tuesday said Maguire still had not complied: “The committee’s position is clear — the acting DNI can either provide the complaint as required under the law, or he will be required to come before the committee to tell the public why he is not following the clear letter of the law, including whether the White House or the attorney general are directing him to do so.”
The complaint was filed on August 12th. As the Post notes, Trump had conversations with at least five foreign leaders in the preceding five weeks, including a call with Vladimir Putin on July 31st. Again, though, it is unclear when the call in question occurred or to whom Trump was speaking, only that the intelligence community’s inspector general felt the complaint was “urgent” and that it came from a “credible” source.
The intelligence community’s inspector general is scheduled to brief the House Intelligence Community on the complaint in a closed session on Thursday.