White House Reacts To Whistleblower's Complaint

Sep 26, 2019
Originally published on September 26, 2019 11:42 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire is testifying right now before the House intelligence committee. The subject is a complaint from a whistleblower. This person alleges that President Trump leveraged his office for political gain. A key event was the president's phone call, and we now have notes of that phone call in which the president does seek political dirt from the president of Ukraine.

The complaint was made within an intelligence agency, and Joseph Maguire, today's witness, blocked its release for a time. He takes questions here from House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ADAM SCHIFF: Would you agree that the whistleblower complaint alleges serious wrongdoing by the president of the United States?

(SOUNDBITE OF CROSSTALK)

JOSEPH MAGUIRE: The whistleblower complaint involved the allegation of that. It is not for me and the intelligence community to decide how the president conducts his foreign policy or his interaction with leaders of other countries, sir.

INSKEEP: That was the essence of Joseph Maguire's argument for withholding the complaint originally, rather than giving it to Congress as the law seemed to require. Maguire and his lawyer at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence offered that it was outside the purview of the intelligence community. Now, NPR's Ayesha Rascoe has been reviewing all of the information we're getting today - not only Maguire's testimony, but the actual text of the whistleblower complaint. And Ayesha, let's talk about that first. What does this complaint add to the phone call that we learned about in detail yesterday?

AYESHA RASCOE, BYLINE: Well, one of the big things that it adds is this idea that - or this allegation that senior White House officials intervened to, quote, "lock down" all records of this phone call, and that they actually put a transcript of the president's call into a computer system that is reserved for sensitive information such as covert action. And not only that, in this report, they say that this wasn't the only time or the first time that this has happened, but that there were other times when information was concealed by putting it into this system that is supposed to be for sensitive information.

INSKEEP: So we already knew about the phone call. And we now have from the information you just laid out, Ayesha, a suggestion by the whistleblower, at least, that lots of officials with the government, or a number of officials within the government and within the White House, were worried that this was super-secret or bothersome information, that they may have even made it harder to find. Now, what is the White House saying about all this?

RASCOE: So the White House is saying that nothing has changed with the release of this complaint, that this is a collection of thirdhand accounts of events, and that all of it shows that nothing was done improperly by the president. And they say that this - and this is coming from White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham.

INSKEEP: But even as she's saying that, of course, they don't deny the substance at the center of this, the phone call that the president made, the campaign by his personal lawyer seeking political dirt out of Ukraine.

RASCOE: No. They are just saying that they don't think that he did anything wrong. They're arguing his actions weren't wrong.

INSKEEP: OK. Ayesha, thank you so much.

RASCOE: Thank you.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Ayesha Rascoe at the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.