Two top experts on whistleblower procedures and the House Intelligence Committee told Newsmax in separate, exclusive interviews Wednesday that the credibility of a complaint against President Trump has been seriously undermined by irregularities in how the matter was handled.
The New York Times reported Wednesday that before the CIA officer filed the whistleblower complaint with the Intelligence Community Inspector General that has since become grounds for an impeachment inquiry backed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, he consulted members of the House Intelligence Committee staff. Those staffers in turn briefed Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif.
Earlier this week, Schiff told MSNBC the Intel Committee had “not spoken directly with the whistleblower.”
But Committee staff said Wednesday they did speak with the whistleblower, and directed him to address the matter with the Intelligence Community Inspector General. They then informed Schiff of the whistleblower’s concerns, they said.
On Wednesday, Schiff confirmed the contact, tweeting, “When a whistleblower seeks guidance, staff advises them to get counsel and go to an IG [Inspector General]. That’s what they’re supposed to do.”
But clear-cut House Intel Committee rules require that all information presented to either party’s members must be shared with the other party.
Longtime intelligence community officer Fred Fleitz, who served as a senior adviser for former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Pete Hoekstra when he ran the Committee, told Newsmax in an exclusive interview Wednesday evening that Democrats did not accurately represent the origins of the complaint, presumably in order to conceal their involvement.
“They were trying to say, ‘This guy first went to the CIA counsel, then went to the IG.’ And the Democrats pretended they knew nothing about it, and the whistleblower was pretending to ask permission from intelligence officials to speak to the Committee.
After Tuesday’s revelation, Fleitz says, “He’d already spoken to the Committee,” adding: “But even more seriously, under Committee rules whenever information comes into the Committee from outside, it has to be shared with both sides.
“So Schiff got this information but did not share it with the Republicans. I know this because I’ve talked with [House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Rep. Devin] Nunes, and I know he didn’t know about it.”
Fleitz said: “[Schiff] concealed this, and at the same time, throughout the month of August, Schiff was talking about this subject matter.”
News that the anonymous whistleblower had first approached House Democrats — who contrary to Committee procedures did not inform their Republican colleagues — before drafting and filing his written complaint with the Intelligence Inspector General as required by the whistleblower statute, will inevitably lead to accusations that the whistleblower’s account was “coached,” influence, or otherwise tainted.
Speaking from the White House Wednesday, President Trump said: “I think it’s a scandal that [Schiff] knew before. I’d go a step further — I think he probably helped write it.”
According to Fleitz, Democrats on the Committee “were acting on this information and orchestrating it,” a conclusion he draws based on the fact they did not share information about the whistleblower’s accusations with Committee Republicans.
“If he’d come to the committee,” said Fleitz, “and the committee decided, ‘Hey, you’ve got to go to your IG,’ they would have told the other side and they would have revealed this up front. But they didn’t.
“They kept this information. So I’m drawing the conclusion they didn’t tell anyone about this information for a reason — because the committee was working with the whistleblower, with the attorneys, to prepare this complaint.”
When acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire testified to Congress last week about the whistleblower accusation against Trump, he stated: “I want to stress I believe the whistleblower 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.”
That now appears not to have been the case. Fleitz told Newsmax of Maguire: “He may not have known all of this. The inspector general might not have been told that this guy was previously talking to the committee.”
Fleitz called the prior, unreported contact with Committee Democrats “a huge setback to their efforts to use this Ukraine complaint against the president, because the credibility of this whistleblower has been severely undercut, because both he and his attorneys and Schiff have not told the truth about this complaint.”
He adds: “We can’t trust the complaint any longer. Clearly, the story about the complaint was not accurate, and we just can’t trust it.”
The revelation of a previous, unreported contact between the whistleblower and Democrats on the Intelligence Committee marked the second important irregularity in the whistleblower’s case this week.
On Monday, the Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson confirmed he had changed the “Disclosure of Urgent Concern Form,” also known as IC IG ICWSP Form 401, so that it no longer stated that a complainant must have first-hand knowledge of an alleged abuse in order to be considered “credible.”
The prior Inspector General materials provided potential complainants advised them: “In order to find an urgent concern ‘credible,’ the IC IG must be in possession of reliable, first-hand information. The IC IG cannot transmit information via the ICWPA based on an employee’s second-hand knowledge of wrongdoing.
“This includes information received from another person, such as when a fellow employee informs you that he/she witnessed information received from another person, such as when a fellow employee informs you that he/she witnessed some type of wrongdoing. … If you think wrongdoing took place, but can provide nothing more than secondhand or unsubstantiated assertions, ICIG will not be able to process the complaint or information for submission as an ICWPA [whistleblower complaint].”
Atkinson’s office released a Sept. 30 statement conceding the first-hand standard for credibility was changed for this particular whistleblower’s claim: “In the process of reviewing and clarifying those forms, and in response to recent press inquiries regarding the instant whistleblower complaint, the IC IG understood that certain language in those forms and, more specifically, the informational materials accompanying the forms, could be read — incorrectly — as suggesting that whistleblowers must possess first-hand information in order to file an urgent concern complaint with the congressional intelligence committees.”
Atkinson’s office has not explained how “press inquiries” could have been received prior to the complainant completing and filing the appropriate form, which needed to be modified.
The bottom line: While the law did not change, the standard that Atkinson used for determining whether a whistleblower complaint would be deemed “credible” did change. And it was changed specifically to “clarify” the validity of the whistleblower’s complaint about the Ukraine phone call.
Former federal prosecutor and Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., who helped lead the impeachment push against then-President Bill Clinton in 1998 and 1999, has lambasted the handling of the whistleblower complaint to date.
Democrats have suggested President Trump was proposing a quid pro quo in July when he urged newly elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to reopen an inquiry into corruption there.
Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, was paid $50,000 a month to serve on the board of Burisma, a company that had come under the scrutiny of Ukrainian investigators.
But at the urging of the vice president, and possibly other world leaders, the prosecutor in the case was fired and the case was dropped.
To liberal commentators, the claim that the vice president strong-armed Ukraine leaders to drop the prosecutor as a favor to his son is baseless. They say the prosecutor was fired because he was corrupt.
The Hill’s John Solomon, however, has reported that hundreds of pages of legal documents have cast doubt on the vice president’s insistence that he did not exert undue influence on his son’s behalf.
As for the question of whether Trump should be subjected to an impeachment inquiry based on second-hand information, after the standard for deeming the complaint “credible” had been changed, Barr told Newsmax on Wednesday that any judge would immediately toss out a complaint that appeared to be customized toward one defendant.
“A judge would say: ‘Summarily dismissed.’ But as has been widely noted, the rules for conducting an impeachment inquiry, which is not a criminal trial, are at best ill-defined.
Barr told Newsmax the handling of the whistleblower’s allegations to date has been “like a modern-day version of the old Keystone Kops.”
Specifically, he criticized Democrats’ apparent failure to disclose conversations held between the House Intelligence Committee staff and the whistleblower prior to the filing of the complaint with the Intelligence Community Inspector General, where by law are first supposed to be evaluated to determine whether they are urgent and credible.
“Certainly, it puts the lie to any legitimate assertion by the Intelligence Committee that they are conducting a fair and objective investigation — not that that seems to matter anymore to them,” Barr said.
He added: “This is not standard operating procedure by any stretch of the imagination or the law.”
Barr also said “that is certainly not the way the system is supposed to operate, that a whistleblower who wants to provide a protected communication to the Congress and is supposed to satisfy certain requirements to the IG and then to the DNI before going to the Congress, if that person then goes to the Congress first, that undercuts the entire process.”
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