National Intelligence Lawyer Central To Beginnings Of Impeachment Probe Will Resign

UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 26: Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and ranking member Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., conduct the House Intelligence Committee hearing featuring testimony by Joseph Maguire, acting director of national intelligence, on a whistleblower complaint about a phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in Rayburn Building on Thursday, September 26, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 26: Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and ranking member Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., conduct the House Intelligence Committee hearing featuring testimony by Joseph Maguire, acting director of ... UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 26: Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and ranking member Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., conduct the House Intelligence Committee hearing featuring testimony by Joseph Maguire, acting director of national intelligence, on a whistleblower complaint about a phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in Rayburn Building on Thursday, September 26, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images) MORE LESS
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February 18, 2020 1:21 p.m.

The intelligence community lawyer who played an integral role in the start of the impeachment probe of President Donald Trump is resigning next month.

Jason Klitenic, general counsel at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), will serve his last day in that role on March 2, an ODNI spokesperson confirmed to TPM Tuesday.

Asked if Klitenic was asked to resign or if he was doing so on his own accord, the spokesperson said, “He wanted to return to the private sector.” Politico first reported Klitenic’s resignation Tuesday.

The attorney made national headlines last year for his letters justifying his boss’s decision not to share the now well-known whistleblower’s complaint about President Donald Trump with Congress.

The complaint, which was written anonymously and concerned President Donald Trump’s infamous July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, among other things, was first submitted to the inspector general of the intelligence community, Michael Atkinson.

Atkinson had judged the complaint to be a matter of “urgent concern” — the legal standard for sharing it with Congress — and forwarded it to Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire. When several days passed and time had run out for Maguire to share the complaint with Congress as required by law, Atkinson alerted House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff to the complaint. Schiff subpoenaed the complaint but Maguire refused to hand it over.

Klitenic wrote two letters to Congress at the time explaining that Maguire did not view the whistleblower’s complaint as an urgent concern — and, notably, that ODNI had conferred with the Justice Department to come to that conclusion.

Klitenic wrote that, because the law says the “urgent concern” standard only applies to “intelligence activity within the responsibility and authority of the DNI,” the whistleblower’s complaint did not need to be transmitted to Congress. The President, the reasoning went, is not a member of the intelligence community subject to the responsibility and authority of the DNI.

Eventually, Maguire shared the complaint with Congress when Trump released the White House memorandum of the phone call in question, thereby erasing any concerns about executive privilege.

Klitenic’s resignation could affect the chain of command at ODNI: According to federal vacancies law, Maguire, the current acting director of the office, can only stay in that temporary place-filler role until March 11. At that point, he must either resign or be nominated in the Senate to hold the directorship permanently — which also requires him to step down from the “acting” role during his confirmation process.

As another Senate-confirmed official at ODNI, Klitenic could have filled the directorship in Maguire’s wake, Politico noted. Asked if that was in the cards Tuesday, the ODNI spokesperson told TPM, “I don’t have anything on that.”

Before being confirmed as general counsel at ODNI, Klitenic was a partner at Holland & Knight LLP and prior to that served in various public and private positions, including at the Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security, according to a résumé he provided to the Senate for his confirmation hearing in January 2018.

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