tv ABC7 News 600AM ABC September 26, 2019 6:00am-7:00am PDT
and state department officials including embassy volker and sundland had spoken with mr. giuliani in an attempt to contain the damage to u.s. national security. >> okay, let me bring in chief justice correspondent pierre thomas on the potential national security risk. pierre. >> one of the things that strikes me is the level of urgency that the inspector general for the intelligence al after 14 days of se looking at this matter, he did find other evidence to substantiate this particular claim. interestingly, he points out an executive order from president trump which states the following, that any effort to interfere in the u.s. election byeopl p outside of the united
states would result in an extraordinary threat to national security and foreign policy. so, the inspector general is saying, here's why you have to investigate this thoroughly, is because this potentially affects national security and foreign policy. also goes on to state that he wants this to be further investigated. we now know as of yesterday's reporting that he not only referred it to the justice department for a possible criminal investigation of the president of the united states, he also referred it to the fbi director. so the tension within the government, the inspector general saying get this done, get this investigated, the justice department looking at it and saying, no, there is a direct conflict between those two points of view, george. >> that is likely to come up in this hearing. we're looking at the hearing where admiral joseph maguire, the retired general, now acting director of national intelligence expected to testify on why he withheld it from congress and why he believes
it's a national security concern. i want to go to mary bruce for more on this. when he comes forward on this committee this morning, the members of the committee have already read this complaint. they read it yesterday. >> reporter: george, they have read this complaint and democrats and even some republicans are describing what they see here as deeply disturbing and trouble is. at any moment the director of national intelligence is going to step into that room around the corner from me and take the spotlight and the first question he's likely to face is why did he stop members of congress from seeing this report. you have the chairman of the committee, adam schiff himself this morning saying this should never have been withheld, that it exposes serious wrongdoing and he's saying that this report is the road map now for their investigation going forward. you have democrats saying that this is screaming for further investigation. they are likely going to want to dig into all of the other documents and the witnesses that are outlined in this complaint. they're going to want to talk to those white house officials who, according to this complaint,
witnessed and relayed concerns that they were witnessing the president abuse his office. and also those who seemed to try and intervene to, quote, lock down the record of this call being made public. but the question, george, how forthcoming is the white house going to be here given the fact they have stonewalled the investigations at every turn. >> jon karl, yesterday the president talked about not only his phone calls but the phone calls and meetings of vice president pence. >> this gets to the question of whether or not there was pressure put on zelensky to cooperate on this matter. this is in the appendix. i learned from u.s. officials that on or around the 14th of may the president instructed vice president pence to cancel his planned travel to ukraine to attend president zelensky's inauguration. according to these officials, it was made clear to them that the president did not want to meet with mr. zelensky until he saw how zelensky, quote, chose to
act in office. >> and dan abrams, i want to take a step back because we spent the last year looking at the robert mueller report on whether or not he was detailing the trump campaign, was willing to accept foreign help in an election. what this complaint is detailing is everything that the president and his personal lawyer and others in the administration were doing to solicit foreign help. >> right. this is active conduct by the president and i think that's why the section that jon just read is so important there. it goes to this -- you talk about is there a quid pro quo, et cetera. this is basically saying that as far as this whistle-blower knew, there was. and i think that there's another critical paragraph here and it's from the very end of the appendix which is talking about what is happening in july, that the office of management and budget is officially informing other agencies that the president earlier that month had
issued instructions to suspend all u.s. security assistance to ukraine. that is critical. and then during interagency meetings on the 23rd and 26th, the officials again stated explicitly that the instruction to suspend the assistance had come directly from the president. >> let me pick up on that, martha raddatz. let me bring you in on this because the president has since then publicly said that one of the reasons he suspended the aid and was so concerned was about corruption inside ukraine, yet the defense department had already certified that the ukraine had done what they needed to do on corruption. >> that's exactly right. in a memo they certified that they had done whatever they could in regards to corruption and that the money could be released. i think one of the things we have to remember here, george, also is how russia would feel about this. russia would love military aid to be denied to ukraine. they would hate having a democracy thrive on their western border, and that's
another reason to look at this, because of russia. >> martha, while i have you, we are about to hear from the acting director of national intelligence, joe maguire, who has had a long career in the government, 26 years as a navy s.e.a.l., recently head of the national counter-terrorism center, but only in place as acting director of national intelligce for a couple of months. this is the first thing on his plate. >> really. he was days into this where these things started to happen and does have a lot on his plate. he was a life-long navy s.e.a.l. he wasn't in intelligence for very many years. over 30 years as a navy s.e.a.l. he did not deploy to any combat zones during the global war on terrorism. he was training young s.e.a.l.s. he is considered nonpolitical. he has a very good reputation within the military, and he is one of the closest friends of bill mccraven. bill mccraven is the man who
planned that operation that eventually led to the death of osama bin laden. bill mccraven in his book describes joe maguire as his dearest friend. of course mccraven himself has been very critical of donald trump, saying at one point he was a humiliation to the country. through your actions you have embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage, worst of all, divided us as a nation. again, joe maguire is considered very nonpolitical, bill mccraven as well but said this is a matter of leadership. of course donald trump has criticized bill mccraven, calling him a hillary clinton fan and obama backer and he should have apprehended osama bin laden faster. >> which is why it's going to be so interesting to watch his testimony today which has been kept under very tight wraps. he appears to be caught in the middle between the white house who didn't want this released publicly, the department of justice who didn't want this released to congress and the
duties he felt he had as the acting director of national intelligence. >> that's right, george. "the washington post" had reported that he had threatened to resign if the white house attempted to keep him from testifying freely before congress, but maguire released a statement saying, at no time have i considered resigning my position since assuming this role on august 16th, 2019. i have never quit anything in my life and i am not going to start now. i am committed to leading the intelligence community to address the complex threats facing our nation. >> the members are starting to take their seats in the house intelligence committee. walk us through what we expect to happen. opening statements from the chairman and the ranking member? >> we are going to hear opening statements and then they're going to go back and forth between the two sides asking questions. there is no question on the hill that republicans are in the middle of a very tricky position. it's notable that they're very
tight-lipped this morning heading into this hearing room. over the last 24 hours we of course have been seeing republican here on the hill largely falling in line, backing the president. he insist that the democrats are playing politics and looking for i mueller 2.0 here but we are seeing some notable signs that that republican support is cracking. so far they are small cracks but cracks nonetheless. we heard from senator mitt romney, senator ben sasse, that they do have concerns about what they have read not just in the summary of the call but in this whistle-blower complaint. the big question is are those cracks going to deepen after what we hear today and will we see even more democrats coming out and adding to that growing chor chorus. we know some are waiting to make that determination based on what they hear here today. >> terry moran, the republicans, whether or not they fall in line behind the president, is so key. of course it was during richard nixon's time that he was only forced to resign when republicans broke.
>> this whistle-blower complain because these are checkable facts. witnesses identified, dates, places, names, a trail leading to the president of the united states and undermining his own defense. he says it's no big deal. if it's no big deal, why did his aides shift the record of this call from the normal computer system to a code worded system, according to the whistle-blower's complaint, simply to protect the president politically. they knew he had done something wrong and the whistle-blower also says it wasn't the first time that a call with a foreign leader had been shifted from the normal place it was stored to a more secret place. >> we're seeing chairman schiff -- thank you, terry. we're seeing chairman schiff come and take his seat, admiral maguire also in place. jon, as we're watching this, it does raise other possible questions which we were talking about yesterday. the president may face questions about other phone calls to foreign leaders. >> exactly. he's brought this up himself. what terry just mentioned is a
very important point in the aepa append appendix. by the way, this is going to drive the president crazy, the idea that there are people inside his white house that are saying this. but according to white house officials, this was not the first time that the administration -- in this administration that a presidential transcript was placed inappropriately on the classified system to protect politically sensitive information. by the way, george, one other thing here is, remember the inspector general looked into this after getting this complaint. the inspector general, we understand, interviewed other witnesses. the inspector general's report on this will likely wigo furthe than we're seeing in this report. >> found credible. also the man we're about to hear from, the director of national intelligence, was the one who made the criminal referral to the justice department, sent it along even they he did agree not to release it to the justice department. we just heard the gavel there.
let's go to it now. adam schiff in place. admiral maguire is also in place. appears to be getting ready. the meeting will come to order. >> without objection, the chair reserves the right to recess the hearing at any time. the presidential oath of office requires the president of the united states to do two things,
faithfully execute hisr her office and protect and defend the constitution. that oath of course cannot be honored if the president does not first defend the country. if our national security is jeopardized, if our country is left undefended, the necessity to faithfully execute the office becomes moot. where there is no country, there is no office to execute. and so the duty to defend the nation is foundational to the president's responsibilities. but what of the second responsibility to defend the constitution? what does that really mean? the founders were not speaking, of course, of a piece of parchment, rather they were expressing the obligation of the president to defend the institutions of democracy, defend our system of checks and balances that the constitution enshrin enshrines, to defend the rule of law, a principle upon which the
idea that america was born that we are a nation of laws, not men. if we do not defend the nation, there is no constitution. but if we do not defend the constitution, there is no nation worth defending. yesterday we were presented with the most graphic evidence yet that the president of the united states has betrayed his oath of office, betrayed his oath to defend our national security, and betrayed his oath to defend our constitution. yesterday we were presented with a record of a call between the president of the united states and the president of ukraine in which the president, our president, sacrificed our national secury and our constitution for his personal political benefit. to understand how he did so, we must first understand just how overwhelmingly dependent ukraine is on the ud states militarily, financially,
diplomatically and in every other way, and just on the united states but on the person of the president. ukraine was invaded by itself neighbor, by our common adversary, by vladimiputin's russia. it remains occupied by russian irregular forces in a long simmering war. ukraine desperately needs our help and for years we have given it, and on a bipartisan basis. that is until two months when it was held up inexplicabye by president trump. it is in this context, after a brief congratulatory call from president trump to president zelensky on april 21st and after the president's personal emissary, rudy giuliani made it abundantly clear to ukrainian officials over several months that the president wanted dirt on his political opponent, it is in this context that the new president of ukraine would speak
to donald trump over the phone on july 25th. president zelensky, eager to establish himself at home as a friend of the president of the most powerful nation on earth, had at least two objectives -- get a meeting with the president and get more military help. and so what happened on that call? zelensky begins by ingratiating himself and he tries to enlist the support of the president. he expresses his interest in meeting with the president and says his country wants to acquire more weapons for us to defend itself. and what is the president's response? well, it reads like a classic organized crime shakedown, shorn of its rambling character and in not so many words, this is the essence of what the president
communicates. we've been very good to your country, very good. no other country has done as much as we have, but you know what, i don't see much reciprocity here. i hear what you want. i have a favor i want from you though. and i'm goi to say this only seven times so you better listen good. i want you to make up dirt on my political opponent, understand? lots of it, on this and on that. i'm going to put you in touch with people, not just any people. i'm going to put you in touch with the attorney general of the united states, my attorney general, bill barr. he's got the whole weight of the american law enforcement behind him. and i'm going to put you in touch with rudy. you're going to love him, trust me. you know what i'm asking and so i'm only going to say this a few more times in a few more ways. and by the way, don't call me again. i'll call you when you've done what i asked. this is in sum and character
what the president was trying to communicate with the president of uke. it would be funny if it wasn't such a graphic betrayal of the president's oath of office. as it does represent a real betrayal, there's nothing the president says here that is in america's interest after all. it is instead the most consequential form of tragedy. it forces us to confront the remedy the founders provided for such a flagrant abuse of office, impeachment. now, this matter would not have come to the attention of our committee or the nation's attention without the courage of a single person, the whistle-blower. as you know, director maguire, more so than perhaps any other area of government since we deal with classified information, the intelligence committee is dependent on whistle-blowers to reveal wrongdoing when it occurs, when the agencies do not self-report, because outside parties are not allowed to
scrutinize your work and to guide us. if that system is allowed to break down as it did here, if whistle-blowers come to understand that they will not be protected, one of two things happen. serious wrongdoing goes unreported or whistle-blowers take matters into their own hands andy ju divulge classifie information and place our national security at risk. this is why the whistle-blower system is so vital to us and why your handling of this urgent complaint is also so troubling. today we can say for the first time since we have released this morning the whistle-blower complaint that you have marked unclassified that the substance of this call is a core issue, although by no means, the only issue raised by the whistle-blower's complaint which was shared with the committee for the first time only late
yesterday. by law, the whistle-blower complaint which brought this gross misconduct to light should have been presented to this committee weeks ago and by you, mr. director, under the clear letter of the law. yet, it wasn't. director maguire, i was very pleased when you were named acting director. if sue gordon was not going to remain, i was grateful that a man of your superb military background was chosen, a navy s.e.a.l. for 36 years and director of the national counter-terrorism center since december 2018. your credentials are impressive. and in the limited interactions we've had since you became director, you have struck me as a good and decent man, which makes your actions over the last month all the more bewildering. why you chose not to provide the complaint to this committee as required by law. why you chose to seek a second
opinion on whether shall really means shall under the statute. why you chose to go to a department led by a man, bill barr, who himself is implicated in the complaint and believes that he exists to serve the interest of the president, not the office itself mind you or the public interest but the interest of the person of donald trump. why you chose to allow the subject of the complaint to play a role in deciding whether congress would ever see the complaint. why you stood silent when intelligence professionals under your care and protection was ridiculed by the president, was accused of betraying his country, why the whistle-blower by their very act of coming forward has shown more dedication to country, more of an understanding of the president's oath of office than the president himself. we look forward to your
explanation. ranking member nunes. >> i thank the gentleman. i want to congratulate the democrats on the rollout of their latest information warfare operation against the president and their extraordinary ability to once again enlist the mainstream media in their campaign. this operation began with media reports from the prime instigators of the russia collusion hoax, that a whistle-blower is claiming president trump made nefarious promise to a foreign leader. the rereleased transcript of that call has already debunked that central assertion, but that didn't matter. the democrats simply moved the goal post and began claiming that there doesn't need to be a quid pro quo for this conversation to serve as the basis for impeaching the president. speaker pelosi went further when asked earlier if she would put brakes on impeachment are if the transcript turned out to be benign. she responded, quote, so there
you go, if the whistle-blower operation doesn't work out, the democrats and -- we have candidates, quote, we have many candidates for impeachable offenses. that was her quote. so there you go. if the whistle-blower operation doesn't work out, the democrats and their media assets can always drum up something else. one other information has come to light since the original false report of a promise being made, we've learned the following. the complaint relied on hearsay evidence provided by the whistle-blower. the inspector general did not know the contents of the call at issue and found the whistle-blower displayed political bias against trump. the department of justice investigated the complaint and determined no action was warranted. the ukrainian president denies being pressured by president trump. so once again, the supposed
scandal ends up being nothing like what we were told and once again the democrats, their media mouthpieces, and a cabal of leakers are ginning up a fake story with no regard to the monumental damage they're causing to our public institutions and to trust in government. without acknowledging all the false stories they propagated in allegations that trumpampaign colluded with russia to hack the 2016 election. we're supposed to forget about all those stories, but believe this one. in short, what we have with this story line is another steele dossier. i'll note here that in the democrats' mania to overturn the 2016 elections, everything they touch gets hopelessly politicized. with the russia hoax it was our intelligence agencies which were turned into a political weapon to attack the president. and now today, the
whistle-blower process is the casualty. until about a week ago, the need to protect that process was a primary bipartisan concern of this committee. but if the democrats were really concerned with defending that process, they would have pursued this matter with a quiet, sober inquiry as we do for all whistle-blowers. but that would have been useless for them. they don't want answers. they want a public spectacle so we've been treated to a parade of press releases, press conferences and fake news stories. this hearing itself is another example. whistle-blower inquiries should not be held in public at all. as our senate counterparts, both democrats and republicans understand, their hearing with mr. maguire is behind closed doors. again, that only makes sense when your goal is to get information, not to create a media frenzy.
the current hysteria has something else in common with the russia hoax. back then they accused the trump campaign of colluding with russians when the democrats themselves were colluding with russians and preparing the steele dossier. today they accuse the president of pressuring ukrainians to take actions that would help himself or hurt his political opponents. yet, there are numerous examples of democrats doing the exact same thing. joe biden bragged that he extorted the ukrainians into firing a prosecutor who happened to be investigating biden's own son. three democratic senators wrote a letter pressuring the ukrainian general prosecutor to re-open the investigation into former trump campaign officials.
another democratic senator went to ukraine and pressured the ukrainian president not to investigate corruption allegations involving joe biden's son. according to ukrainian, officials, the contractor alexandra chalupa tried to get ukrainian officials to provide dirt on trump associates and tried to get the former ukrainian president to comment publicly on alleged ties to russia. ukrainian official sir hey ha schenk co was a source for nelly orr, wife of department of justice official bruce orr, as she worked on the operation funded by the democrats. of course, democrats on this very committee negotiated with people who they thought were ukrainians in order to obtain nude pictures of trump.
people can reasonably ask why the democrats are so determined to impeach this president when in just a year they'll have a chance. in fact, one democratic congressman, one of the first to call for trump's impeachment, gave us the answer when he said, quote, i'm concerned that if we don't impeach the president, he will get re-elected, unquote. winning elections is hard, and when you compete you have no guarantee you'll win. but the american people do have a say in this and they made their voices heard in the last presidential election. this latest gam but by the democrats to overturn the people's mandate is unhinged and dangerous. they should end the entire dishonest, grotesque spectacle and get back to work solving problems which is what every member of this committee was sent here to do. judging by today's charade, the
chances of that happening any time soon are zero to none. i yield back. >> i thank the gentleman. director, would you rise for the oath and raise your right hand. do you solemnly swear or affirm that the testimony you will give today shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you god? >> i do. >> thank you, you may be seated. the record will reflect that the witness has been duly sworn. director maguire, would you agree that the whistle-blower complaint alleges serious wrongdoing by the president of the united states? >> mr. chairman, the whistle-blower -- >> actually, i apologize, director. let me recognize you for your
opin statement and you may take as much time as you need. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. chairman schiff, ranking member nunes and members of the committee, good morning. i'd like to begin by thanking the chairman and the committee for agreeing to postpone this hearing for one week. this provided sufficient time to allow the executive branch to successfully complete its consultations regarding how to accommodate the committee's request. mr. chairman, i've told you this on several occasions and i would like to say this publicly. i respect you, i respect this committee, and i welcome and take seriously the committee's oversight role. during my confirmation process to be the director of the national counter-terrorism center, i told the committee that congressional oversight of the intelligence activities is critical and essential to successful operations with the
intelligence community. having served as the director of the national counter-terrorism center for eight months and as the actor director of national intelligence for the past six weeks, i continue to believe strongly that the role of congressional oversight. as i pledge to the senate, i pledge to you today that i will continue to work closely with congress while i'm serving either in this capacity as acti acting director of national counter-terrorism or when i return to the center to ensure you are fully informed of intelligence abilities to facilitate the intelligence community. the american people expect us to keep them safe. the intelligence community cannot do that without this committee's support. before i turn to the matter of hand, there are a few things i wliek would like to say. i am into tnot partisan and i a
political. i believe in a life of service and i'm honored to be a punibli servant. i served under eight presidents while i was in uniform. i have taken the oath to the constitution 11 times, the first time when i was sworn into the united states navy in 1974 and nine times during my subsequent promotions in the united states navy. most recently, former director dan coats administered the oath last december when i became the director of the national ter-temnter. i agree with you, the oath is sacred. it's a foundation of our constitution. the oath to me means not only that i swear a true faith and allegiance to that sacred document, but more importantly, i view it as a kcovenant with m workforce that i lead and every american that i will well and faithfully discharge the duties of my office. i come from a long line of public servants who step forward
even in the most difficult times and austere times to support and defend our country. when i took my uniform off in july of 2010, it was the first time in 70 years that an immediate member of my family was not wearing the cloth of the nation. as a naval special ware fafare officer, i commanded the every level in the community. it was at times very demanding but the rewards of serving in america's special operations community more than make up for the demands. after my retirement, i was fortunate to work for a great private sector firm. i left the business world after three years to lead a nonprofit charity. some question why i would leave a promising business career to run a charity. the answer was quite simple. it was another internopportunit serve. i dedicate the sacrifice to our fallen and wounded special
operators. the foundation enabled hundreds of children of our fallen to attend college. it was extremely meaningful and rewarding. in the winter of 2018 i was asked by former director dan coats to return to government service to lead the national counter-terrorism center. this request was totally unexpected and was not a position i sought. but then again, it was another opportunity to serve my country. in particular, i knew that many of the young sailors and junior officers that i had trained 20 years earlier were now senior combat veterans deploying and still sacrificing. i decided if they could continue to serve, returning to government service was the very least i could do. and now, here i am, sitting before you as the acting director of national intelligence. with last month's departure of dan coats and sue gordon, two exceptional leaders and friends, i was asked to step into their very big shoes and lead the
inlligence community until the president nominates and the senate confirms the next director of national intelligence. i accepted this responsibility because i love this country. i have a deep and profound respect for the men and women of our intelligence community and the mission we execute every day on behalf of the american people. throughout my career, i have served and led through turbulent times and governed every action by the following criteria, it must be legal, it must be moral and it must be ethical. no one can take a individual's integrity away. it can only be given away. if every action meets those criteria, you will always be a person of integrity. in my nearly four decades of public service, my integrity has never been questioned until now. i'm here today to unequivocally state that as acting dni i will continue the same faithful and nonpartisan support in a matter that adheres to the constitution
and the laws of this great country as long as i serve in this position for whatever period of time that may be. i want to make it clear that i have are upheld my responsibility to follow the law every step of the way in the matter that is before us today. i want to also state my support for the whistle-blower and the rights and the laws whistle blowing has a long history in our country dating back to the continental congress. this is not surprising because as a nation we desire for good government. therefore we must protect those who demonstrate courage to report alleged wrongdoing whether on the battlefield or in the workplace. indeed, at the start of ethics training in the executive branch each year we are reminded that public service is a public trust, and as public servants we have a solemn responsibility to do what's right which includes report concerns of waste, fraud and abuse and bringing such matters to the attention of congress under the intelligence
community whistle-blower protection act. i applaud all employees who come forward under this act. i am committed to ensuring that all whistle-blower complaints are handled appropriately and to protecting the rights of whistle-blowers. in this case, the complain ent raised a matter with the intelligence community inspector general. the inspector general is properly protecting the complainant's identity and the complainant will not be subject to retaliation or adverse consequences for communicating the complaint. upholding the integrity of the intelligence community is my number one priority. throughout my career i relied on the men and women of the intelligence community to do their jobs so i could do mine, and i could personally attest that their efforts saved lives. i would now like to turn to the complaint and provide a general background on how we got to where we are today. on august 26th the inspector
general forwarded a complaint to me from an employee in the intelligence community. the inspector general stated that the complaint raised an urgent concern, a legally defined term under whistle-blower protection act that has been discussed at length in our letters to the committee on september 16 and 17. before i turn to the discussion about whether the complaint meets the definition of urgent concern, i first want to talk about an even more fundamental issue. upon reviewing the complaint, we were immediately struck by the fact that many of the allegations in the complaint are based on a conversation between the president and another foreign leader. such calls are typically subject to executive privilege. as a result, we consulted with the white house council's office and we were advised that much of the information in the complaint was, in fact, subject to executive privilege, a privilege that i do not have the authority to waive. because of that, we were unable
to immediately share the details of the complaint with this committee but continued to consult with the white house counsel in an effort to do so. yesterday the president released the transcripts of the call in question and therefore we are now able to disclose the details of both complaint and the inspector general's letter transmitting to us. as a result, i have provided the house and senate intelligence committees with the full, unredacted complaint, as well as the inspector general's letter. let me also dcuss the issue of urgent concern. when transmitting a complaint to me, the inspector general took the legal position that because the complaint alleges matters of urgent concern and because he found the allegations to be credible i was required under the intelligence community whistle-blower protection act to forward the complaint to our oversight committees within seven days of receiving it. as we have previously explained in our letters, urgent concern
is a statutorily defined term. to be an urgent concern, the allegations must, in addition to being classified, assert a flagrant, seriou oble abuse or violation of law, and relate to the funding, administration, or operation of an intelligence activity within the responsibility of the director of national intelligence. however, this complaint concerns conduct by someone outside the intelligence community, unrelated to funding, administration or operation of an intelligence activity under my supervision. because the allegation on the face did not appear to fall in the statutory framework, my office consulted with the united states department of justice opposite of legal counsel and we included the inspector general in those consultations. after reviewing the complaint and the inspector general's
transmittal letter, the office of legal counsel determined that the complaint's allegations do not meet the statutory requirement, definition of urgent concern and found that i was not legally required to transmit the activity. that legal counsel memo was publicly released. as you know for those of us in the executive branch, office of legal counsel opinions are binding on all of us. in particular, the office of legal counsel opinion states that the president is not a member of the intelligence community and the communication with a foreign leader involved no intelligence operation or activity aimed at collecting or analyzing foreign intelligence. while this olc opinion did not require transmission of the complaint to the committees, it did leave me with the discretion to forward the complaint to the committee. however, given the executive
privilege issues i discussed, neither the inspector general nor i were able to share the details of the complaint at the time. when the inspector general informed me that he still intended to notify the committees of the existence of the complaint, mr. chairman, i supported that decision to ensure the committees were kept as informed as possible of the process moving forward. i want to raise a few other points about the situation we find ourselves in. first, i want to stress that i believe that the whistle-blower and the inspector general have acted in good faith throughout. i have every reason to believe that they have done everything by the book and followed the law. respecting the privileged nature of the information and patiently waiting while the executive privilege issues were resolved. wherever possible, we have worked in partnership with the inspector general on this matter. while we have a differing of
opinions on the issue of whether or not it's an urgent concern, i strongly believe in the role of the inspector general. i greatly value the independence he brings in his dedication and his role in keeping me and the committees informed of matters within the intelligence committee. second, although executive privilege prevented us from sharing the details of the complaint with the committees until recently, this does not mean that the complaint was ignored. the inspector general, in consultation with my office, referred this matter to the department of justice for investigation. finally, i appreciate that in the past whistle-blower complaints may have been provided to congress regardless of whether they were deemed credible or sat fewed the urgent concern requirement. however, i'm not familiar with any prior instances where a whistle-blower complaint touched on such complicated and sensitive issues including
executive privilege. i believe that this matter is unprecedented. i also believe that i hoonandle this matter in full compliance with the law at all times, and i am committed to do so, sir. i appreciate the committee providing me this opportunity to discuss this matter and the ongoing commitment to work with the congress on your important oversight role. thank you very much, sir. >> thank you, director. would you agree that the whistle-blower complaint alleges serious wrongdoing by the president of the united states? >> the whistle-blower complaint involved the allegation of that. it is not for me and the intelligence community to decide how the president conducts foreign policy or his interaction with leaders of other countries, sir. >> i'm not asking you to opine on how the president conducts foreign policy.
i'm asking you whether, as the statute requires, this complaint involved serious wrongdoing, in this case, by the president of the united states, an allegation of serious wrongdoing by the president of the united states. is that not the subject of this complaint? >> that is the subject of the allegation of the complaint, and two things, mr. chairman -- >> let me ask you about that. the inspector general found that serious allegation of misconduct by the president credible. did you also find that credible? >> i did not criticize the inspector general's decision on whether or not it was credible. my question was whether or not it meets the urgen concern in the seven-daytime frame that would follow. >> my question, director -- >> i have no question in his
judgment that he considers it a serious matter. >> well, and you would concur, would you not, director, that this complaint alleging serious wrongdoing by the president was credible? >> it's not for me to judge, sir. what my job -- >> it is for you to judge, apparently. i agree it's not for you to judge. you shall provide it to congress, but indeed you did judge whether this complaint should be provided to congress. can we at least agree that the inspector general made a sound conclusion that this whistle-blower complaint was credible? >> that's correct. that is in the cover letter that's been provided to the committee. i believe that's also been public, the decision and the recommendation by the inspector general that, in fact, the allegation was credible. >> can we also agree that it was urgent, that if the president of the united states was withholding military aide to an ally even as you received the
complaint and was doing so for nefarious reason, that is to exercise leverage over the president of ukraine to dig up manufactured dirt on his opponent, can we agree that it was urgent while that aide was being withheld? >> there are two things here -- >> i'm talking about the lay -- the common understanding of what urgent means. the inspector general said this was urgent as everyone understands that term. can we agree that it was urgent? >> it was urgent and important, but my job as the director of national intelligence was to comply with the whistle-blower protection act and adhere to the definition of urgent concern which is a legal term. >> and to adhere to the meaning of the term shall? >> yes, sir. >> in this case, you sought a second opinion on whether shall really means shall by going to the white house? >> no, sir. there were two things as i said in my statement.
one, it appeared that it also had matters of executive privilege. i am not authorized as the director of national intelligence to waive executive privilege. >> and at any time over it is last month that you held this complaint, did the white house assert executive privilege? >> mr. chairman, i have endeavored -- >> i think that's a yes or no question. did they ever assert executive privilege? >> they were working through the executive privilege procedures in deciding whether or not to exert executive privilege and -- >> so they never asserted executive privilege, is that the answer? >> mr. chairman, if they did, we would not have released the letters yesterday and all the information that has been forthcoming. >> now, the first place you went was to the white house, am i to understand that from your opening statement? it wasn't to the department of justice. the first place you went for a
second opinion was to the white house? >> i did not go for a second opinion. the question was, is the information contained here subject to executive privilege, not whether or not it met urgent concern. >> and so the first place you went for advice as to whether you should provide the complaint as the statute requires to congress was the white house? >> i am not authorized, as the director of national intelligence, to provide executive privileged information. i think it is prudent, as a member of the executive branch, to check to ensure that, in fact, it does not. >> i'm just asking about the sequencing here. did you first go to the white house to determine whether you should provide a complaint to congress? >> no, sir. that was not the question. the question was whether or not it has executive privilege, not whether or not i should send it to congress. >> is the first party you went to outside of your office to seek advice, counsel, direction
the white house? >> i have consulted with the white house counsel and eventually we also consulted with the department of justice office of legal counsel. >> my question is, did you go to the white house first? >> i went to the office of legal counsel for advice, yes, sir. >> well, i'm asking which you went to first. did you go to the department of justice office of legal counsel or the white house first? >> my team, my office, went to the office of legal counsel first to receive whether or not the matter in the letter and in the complaint might meet the executive privilege. they viewed it and said we've determined that it appears to be executive privilege, and until executive privilege is determined and cleared, i did not have the authority to be able to send that forward to the committee. i worked with the office of legal counsel for the past several weeks to get resolution on this.
it's a very deliberate process. >> director, i'm still trying tounto understand the chronology. you first went two legal counsel and then white house counsel? >> repeat that please, sir. >> i'm trying to understand the chronology. you first went to the office of legal counsel and then you went to the white house counsel? >> no, no, no, sir. no. we went to the white house first to determine -- to ask the question -- >> that's all i wanted to know. you went to the white house first. so you went to the subject of the complaint for advice first about whether you should provide the complaint to congress? >> there were issues within this -- a couple of things. one, it did appear that it has executive privilege. if it does have executive privilege, it is the white house that determines that. i cannot determine that as the director of national intelligence. >> but in this case, the white house, the president, is the
subject of the complaint. he's the subject of the wrongdoing. were you aware when you went to the white house for advice about whether evidence of wrongdoing by the white house should be provided to the congress, were you aware that the white house counsel has taken the unprecedented position that the privilege applies to communications involving the preside president, when he was president, involving the president when he wasn't president, involving people who never served in the administration, people who never served in the administration when they're not talking to the president. were you aware that that is the unprecedented position of the white house, the white house you went to for advice about whether you should turn over a complaint involving the white house is this. >> mr. chairman, as i said in my opening statement, i believe everything here is totally unprecedented and that's why my former directors of national intelligence forwarded them to you, whether or not it met urgent concern or whether it was serious. this was different. to me, it just seemed prudent to be able to check and ensure, as
a member of the executive branch, before i sent it forward. >> i have a couple of questions and then i'm going to turn it over to the ranking member and he may consume as much time as i did. the second place you went to was the justice department and you went to that department headed by a man, bill barr, who was also implicated in the complaint, and you knew that when you went to the department of justice for an opinion, correct, that bill barr was mentioned in the complaint? >> mr. chairman, i went to the office of legal counsel in consultation with the icig. he was a part of that to receive whether or not this met the criteria -- >> yes, but that icig vehemently disagreed with the opinion of the bill barr justice department, did he not? >> he still considered it a matter of urgent concern.
however, as you know, opinions from department of justice office of legal counsel are binding on all of us in the executive branch. >> well, let me ask you this, do you think it's appropriate that you go to a department run by someone who's the subject of the complaint to get advice -- or who is a subject of the complaint or implicated in the complaint for advice as to whether you should provide that complaint to congress, did that conflict of interest concern you? >> mr. chairman, when i saw this report and complaint, immediately i knew that this was a serious matter. it came to me and i just thought it would be prudent to ensure -- >> i'm just asking if the conflict of interest concerned you. >> well, sir, i have to work with what i've got and that is the office of legal counsel within the executive branch. i had no other -- >> you also had a statute that
says shall and even then you said you had discretion to provide it but did not. >> because it did not meet the matter of urgent concern. that took away the seven-daytime line. i have endeavored to work with the office of legal counsel in order to get the material to you which we have provided to you yesterday. now, i have to tell you, chairman, it is not perhaps at the timeline that i would have desired or you, but the office of legal counsel has to make sure they make prudent decisions, and yesterday when the president released the transcripts of his call with the president of the ukraine, then they could no longer -- executive privilege no longer applied and that is when i was free to be able to send the complaint to the committee. >> director, you don't believe the whistle-blower is a political hack, do you? >> i don't know who the whistle-blower is, mr. chairman, to be honest with you. i've done my utmost to make sure i protect his anonymity.
>> that doesn't sound like much of a defense of a whistle-blower here. you don't believe the whistle-blower is a political hack, do you, director? >> as i said before, mr. chairman, i believe the whistle-blower is operating in good faith, has followed the law. >> they couldn't be in good faith if they were acting as a political hack, could they? >> mr. chairman, my job is to support and lead the entire intelligence community. that individual works for me, therefore it is my job to make sthur th sure that i support and defend that person. >> you don't have any reason to accuse them of misloyalty to our country or -- >> sir, absolutely not. i believe that the whistle-blower followed the steps every step of the way. however, the statute was one in this situation involving the president of the united states who is not in the intelligence community or matters underneath my supervision, did not meet the criteria for urgent concern. >> i'm just asking about the whistle-blower right now. >> i think the whistle-blower did the right thing. i think he followed the law
every step of the way, and we just got stuck -- >> why, directser, when the president called the whistle-blower a political hack and suggested that he or she might be disloyal to the country, why did you remain silent? >> i did not remain silent, mr. chairman. i issued a statement to my workforce committing my commitment to the whistle-blower protection and ensuring that i would provide protection to anybody within the intelligence community who comes forward. but the way this thing was blowing out, i didn't think it was appropriate for me to be making a press statement so that we counter each other every step of the way. >> i think it was not only appropriate but there's nothing that would have given more confidence to the workforce than to hearing you publicly say no one should be calling this professional who did the right thing a hack or a traitor or anything else. i think that would have meant a great deal to the workforce. mr. nunes, you're recognized.
>> welcome, mr. director. it's a pleasure to have you here. you're going to be part of a charade of legal word games. they're going to try to get you to say something that can be repeated by the media that is here that wants to report this story. you -- i just want to get one thing straight because one of the quotes they're going to use from you is you saying that this was a credible complaint. that will be used and spun as you're saying that it was true and i want to give you an opportunity to -- you do not -- you have not investigated the investigator veracity or the tr this complaint? >> that's correct, ranking member. the determination on credible was made by the ic inspector general. he made the determination that it is credible and he also made the determination of urgent concern.
my question was not -- i did not question his judgment there. the question i had was, does, in fact, this allegation of wrongdoing meet the criteria, the statutory criteria, of urgent concern, and the other issue as i said complicated things, did, in fact, the allegations within this whistle-blower complaint involve executive privilege. >> thank you for clarifying that. have you ever -- you mentioned it a little bit in your testimony. have you ever or are you aware of any former dnis who have testified about whistle-blower complaints in the public? >> not to my knowledge, ranking member. i do not know. >> are you aware of any cases like this that were put into the spotlight? would this be the way to handle it out in the public like this? >> i am not aware of any, but i want to say once again, i believe that theituation we have and why we're here this