US’s spy chief reportedly threatened to resign if the White House blocked him from testifying before Congress
The acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, threatened to resign if he wasn’t allowed to testify freely before Congress, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday.
Maguire is scheduled to testify on Thursday morning about a whistleblower complaint involving President Donald Trump, but there were concerns that the White House might impose limits on his testimony or stop him from appearing all together.
The Post reported that Maguire told the White House that he would not withhold information from Congress and would only hold back on cooperating if the White House gave him a legal reason for doing so.
The report also said that Maguire was displeased that White House counsel Pat Cipollone and other officials had stopped him from transmitting the whistleblower complaint about Trump to Congress on the grounds that it did not fall within his authority as acting DNI.
Maguire, however, objected to reports on Wednesday that he had threatened to resign since taking office a month ago. “At no time have I considered resigning my position since assuming this role on Aug. 16, 2019,” he said in a statement. “I have never quit anything in my life, and I am not going to start now.”
At the center of the complaint is a July 25 phone call Trump had with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Notes of the call that the White House released on Wednesday show Trump repeatedly pressing Zelensky to discredit the Russia investigation and investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son. Trump asked Zelensky to do him that “favor” after Zelensky raised the issue of US military aid to Ukraine.
The intelligence community inspector general, Michael Atkinson, reportedly told Maguire that the conversation could amount to a violation of campaign finance law on Trump’s part.
Maguire and Atkinson then referred the complaint to the Justice Department for criminal investigation.
The Justice Department’s criminal division reviewed the whistleblower’s complaint and determined that there were no grounds for an investigation of Trump’s behavior, The New York Times reported. Officials are said to have decided that the memo of Trump’s phone call with Zelensky didn’t show him violating campaign finance laws by asking for a financial contribution or an “item of tangible value.”
Trump had ordered the US to withhold the nearly $400 million military-aid package to Ukraine days before the phone call. The US president made no direct mention of offering aid in exchange for Zelensky’s assistance in probing Biden, but be brought up how the US does “a lot for Ukraine” right before asking Zelensky for a favor.
Early in the call, Trump reminded Zelensky that “we do a lot for Ukraine. We spend a lot of effort and a lot of time. Much more than the European countries are doing.”
Zelensky agreed, telling Trump he was “absolutely right.” He added, “The European Union should be our biggest partner but technically the United States is a much bigger partner than the European Union … the United States is doing quite a lot for Ukraine.”
The Ukrainian president went on to thank Trump for “your great support in the area of defense. We are ready to continue to cooperate for the next steps. Specifically, we’re almost ready to buy more javelins from the United States for defense purposes,” referring to US-made anti-tank missiles.
Trump then responded, “I would like you to do us a favor though, because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike … I guess you have one of your wealthy people … The server, they say Ukraine has it.”
“I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it,” Trump said, according to the notes. “Whatever you can do, it’s very important that you do it if that’s possible.”
He then pivoted to discussing Biden: “There’s a lot of talk about [former vice president Joe Biden’s] son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it … It sounds horrible to me.”
The White House decided on Tuesday evening to release the whistleblower’s complaint to congressional intelligence committees. The move came after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the House was launching an impeachment inquiry into Trump, and after the Senate, in a rare show of bipartisanship, unanimously voted for a resolution calling for the complaint to be released to Congress.
House Intelligence Committee ranking member Devin Nunes reportedly told the House chamber that Maguire will transmit the complaint to Congress by 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday.
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