White House also involved in advising DNI not share to whistleblower complaint

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The revelation is the first known evidence of the White House’s involvement. Speaking to reporters on Thursday, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said he didn’t know whether the White House was involved.

The White House Counsel’s office and Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel have both been involved in discussing the complaint with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) in the handling of the issue. So far, the director of national intelligence has not allowed lawmakers access to the complaint, which a source familiar with the matter said involved a communication between President Donald Trump and a foreign leader.

In explaining their position, ODNI has suggested there is a question of privilege. The agency wrote in a letter to lawmakers on September 13 the complaint “involves confidential and potentially privileged communications by persons outside the Intelligence Community.” The letter ends by noting the agency would work toward “protecting Executive Branch confidentiality interests.”

Previously, the White House has cited longstanding precedent in refusing congressional requests for documents related to Trump’s meetings with his Russian counterpart.

“It is settled law that the Constitution entrusts the conduct of foreign relations exclusively to the Executive Branch, as it makes the President ‘the sole organ of the federal government in the field of international relations,”http://rss.cnn.com/” White House counsel Pat Cipollone wrote in a letter to Democrats in May.

The complaint had spurred a standoff between Congress and Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence.

On Tuesday, the ODNI sent letters to Schiff and the House Intelligence Committee’s top Republican, Rep. Devin Nunes of California. The letters said not only that Maguire was refusing to provide the requested information — as the complaint “does not meet the definition of ‘urgent concern”http://rss.cnn.com/” — but also that he would not appear before the committee as scheduled because he “is not available on such short notice.”

By Wednesday, Maguire had agreed to a public hearing next week and the agency’s watchdog was answering lawmakers’ questions behind closed doors on Thursday. But he was unwilling to share details of the controversial whistleblower complaint.

Instead, Inspector General Michael Atkinson has been telling the committee that he is not allowed to provide details of the substance of the complaint because he was not authorized to do so, the sources said. He is discussing the process for his handling of the whistleblower’s concerns.

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