The House Intelligence Committee is expanding an existing investigation into the Department of Homeland Security to address a whistleblower’s allegations that top officials politicized intelligence to aid President Donald Trump.
The whistleblower complaint, written by the department’s former top intelligence official, alleges that Trump administration higher-ups pressured him and others to distort intelligence products on Russia, white supremacists and “antifa” in order to reflect Trump’s priorities. The White House and DHS have denied the allegations made in the complaint.
“Based on information that has recently come to light, the Committee’s investigation must now encompass and review a wider range of reported abuses, deficiencies, and problems, including allegations of improper politicization of intelligence and political interference in [the Office of Intelligence and Analysis’] mission and activities,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) wrote in a letter to Joseph B. Maher, the DHS official now performing the former job of the demoted whistleblower.
The whistleblower, Brian Murphy, alleges he was demoted from his position as acting undersecretary for Intelligence and Analysis for refusing to go along with department higher ups — including Acting Secretary Chad Wolf and his top deputy, Ken Cuccinelli — who Murphy said sought to manipulate intelligence analyses.
Notably, the committee was already investigating the Office of Intelligence and Analysis. That investigation began after news broke last month that, among other things, the office had collected information on journalists who were reporting on the federal presence in Portland.
Murphy was overseeing the Office of Intelligence and Analysis at the time, and his whistleblower complaint addresses that scandal, calling press reporting on it “significantly flawed.” The complaint asserts that “DHS I&A never knowingly or deliberately collected information on journalists, at least as far as Mr. Murphy is aware or ever authorized.”
Murphy’s complaint alleges that, though Wolf “knew” there was no merit to the press about the scandal, “the removal and reassignment of Mr. Murphy would be politically good for Mr. Wolf, who wanted to be officially nominated as the DHS Secretary.”
Schiff’s letter Friday significantly expands the scope of the committee’s investigatory work.
For one thing, Murphy’s allegations go back to 2018, when he alleges that then-DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and others misled Congress about the threat of known and suspected terrorists crossing the southern border. Murphy also alleged that Cuccinelli wanted to retaliate against DHS staff whose work on Central America he considered to be the product of “deep state intelligence analysts.”
What grabbed headlines, though, was Murphy’s claim that Wolf and Cuccinelli pressured him to alter an intelligence document to downplay the threat of white supremacist violence and emphasize “antifa.”
Separately, Murphy alleged, he was excluded from the drafting process of an intelligence notification on Russian disinformation efforts after Wolf told him the notification should be “held” because it “made the President look bad.”
In his letter to Maher, Schiff listed several DHS officials with whom the committee would request transcribed interviews. And he said he appreciated the department’s pledge to “cooperate with the Committee’s expanded investigative focus.”