House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) wants several materials related to the Trump administration’s move to block an intelligence community whistleblower’s complaint from being turned over to Congress.
Schiff made the request Tuesday in a scathing letter to Attorney General Bill Barr and demanded the materials by Monday.
The committee chair is requesting an assortment of records, including Justice Department communications with the White House and with the intelligence community regarding the complaint.
The letter also demands information related to any FBI inquiry into the complaint. It’s unclear whether that is a reference to the criminal referral the Justice Department inspector general made related to the complaint.
Additionally, the letter requested the DOJ Office of Legal Counsel opinion explaining the move to block the complaint’s transmittal. The Justice Department released the opinion Wednesday morning.
Schiff framed his request as part of the House’s “formal impeachment inquiry,” which Speaker Nancy Pelosi publicly sanctioned on Tuesday.
Schiff first learned of the complaint from Michael Atkinson, the inspector general of the intelligence community, who told Schiff earlier this month that acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph McGuire was preventing him from transmitting the complaint to the intelligence committees.
By law, the intelligence community inspector general is required to turn over a whistleblower’s complaint to Congress if it meets the statutory standard of being an “urgent concern.”
Atkinson had told Schiff he had determined the complaint in question to have met the definition. However, McGuire — with consultation from the DOJ and its office of legal counsel — disagreed.
Schiff on Tuesday said that the relevant law gave the DNI no authority to overrule the inspector general’s determination and that the committee believes that this is the first time such a complaint has been withheld from Congress since at least 2010.
He accused the Justice Department of “usurp[ing]” the inspector general’s role and said that, if its intervention was allowed to stand, it would have “serious and corrosive consequences.”
He said that the Department’s “flawed” advice could have “serious and far-reaching implication.”
“The potential chilling effect of this bait-and-switch could have widespread ramifications to both this individual and the lawful whistleblowers inside and outside the Intelligence Community,” the letter said.
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