Can’t say if whistleblower was unbiased, says US intel chief

Minutes after a whistleblower’s complaint against the US President was made public on Thursday, acting director of National Intelligence (DNI), Joseph Maguire, above, testified that the person acted in good faith but it is difficult to say whether he or she was unbiased.

Answering questions raised by members of the House Intelligence Committee, Maguire defended the way he handled the whistleblower’s complaint, saying it was done in full compliance with the law.

The complaint was unique and unprecedented and it raised sensitive issues such as executive privilege, he said.

Maguire defended his decision not to share the complaint with the Congress as the conversation between Trump and another state head was protected by executive privilege.

Democrats have been attacking Maguire for withholding the complaint which Inspector General of the intelligence community, Michael Atkinson, had turned over to him marking ‘of urgent concern.’

They said the law demands that the DNI “shall” transmit whistleblower complaints to house panels.

Maguire repeatedly told Democratic lawmakers during the hearing that the unique complaint, centred on a phone call between heads of two states, presented unique considerations.

Through the three-hour questioning, House Intelligence Committee chairman and Democratic Representative from California Adam Schiff repeatedly asked Maguire why he sought advice from the White House when the president is the main accused in the complaint.

He also wanted to know details of the discussions between him and Trump and also whether the president pressured him not to pass the complaint to Congress.

Maguire said he first sought guidance from the White House Counsel’s Office and then from the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department as the complaint may come under executive privilege.

He even consulted lawyers of his branch. Since the case was unprecedented, no clear ruling was forthcoming from the White House Counsel’s Office or the Office of Legal Counsel.

The Office of Legal Counsel found that the complaint did not meet the statutory definition of an ‘urgent concern’ under the whistleblower law.

To Schiff’s second question, Maguire said that as head of an executive branch of the government, he is not supposed to divulge details of a conversation with president as such matters come under executive privilege.

He repeatedly told house panel members that he does not know the identity of the whistleblower and that no one asked him to find it.

While Democrats tried to frustrate him asking him the same questions, Republicans said the whistleblower’s complaint was based on remarks the person gathered from multiple unidentified sources.

Before the hearing ended, Schiff made one final unsuccessful attempt to make Maguire say a wrong word by flooding him with more questions.