NBC: CIA General Counsel Thought She Made Criminal Referral Based On Whistleblower Info

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 27: In this photo illustration, a copy of the unclassified memorandum of U.S. President Donald Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky from July 25, 2019 is shown ... WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 27: In this photo illustration, a copy of the unclassified memorandum of U.S. President Donald Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky from July 25, 2019 is shown September 27, 2019 in Washington, DC. The White House released on September 25, 2019 a memorandum of the phone call, one day after Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced a formal impeachment inquiry due to a whistleblower complaint regarding the call. (Photo Illustration by Alex Wong/Getty Images) MORE LESS

The CIA’s general counsel made a criminal referral — or at least, she thought she did — of a whistleblower’s complaint concerning President Donald Trump’s interactions with Ukraine’s president.

According to NBC News, which cited unnamed officials familiar with the matter, Courtney Simmons Elwood, the CIA’s top lawyer, considered her Aug. 14 phone call with high-ranking DOJ officials to be a criminal referral. 

However, unnamed Justice Department officials told NBC News they didn’t consider the conversation to be a formal criminal referral — because it wasn’t in writing.

John Eisenberg, the top legal adviser to the National Security Council, and John Demers, chief of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, were reportedly on the call.

Elwood and Eisenberg told Demers on that call that “the allegations merited examination by the DOJ,” in NBC News’ words.

Attorney General Bill Barr was made aware of the conversation in the days that followed, NBC News reported.

The newly reported referral is different from a later referral of the whistleblower’s allegations to the Justice Department by the director of national intelligence and the inspector general for the intelligence community. The Justice Department declined to pursue the case.

The Justice Department has acknowledged that it did not open a criminal investigation based on that referral because, “based on the facts and applicable law, that there was no campaign finance violation and that no further action was warranted,” a spokesperson said.

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