Several government watchdogs for various agencies have reprimanded the Department of Justice for its response to the whistleblower complaint currently at the center of an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, Politico reports.
Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz and National Science Foundation Inspector General Allison Lerner led the group of inspectors general from various agencies in complaining to Assistant Attorney General Steven Engel about the Office of Legal Council’s determination that the department was not required to relay the complaint to lawmakers on congressional intelligence committees.
“This letter from the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, on behalf of the undersigned federal Inspectors General (IG), expresses our support for the position advanced by the ICIG and our concern that the OLC opinion, if not withdrawn or modified, could seriously undermine the critical role whistleblowers play in coming forward to report waste, fraud, abuse, and misconduct across the federal government,” Horowitz, the chair of the council, and Lerner, the vice chair, wrote in the letter.
Horowitz and Lerner also note that the intelligence community’s inspector general, Michael Atkinson, did find the complaint credible and “urgent,” leading him to forward the document to Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, and eventually to the House Intelligence Committee.
“In this matter, OLC did not find that production to Congress was limited due to a valid constitutional concern,” they wrote. “Rather, OLC substituted its judgment and reversed a determination the statute specifically entrusted to the ICIG because of its independence, objectivity, and expertise to credibly assess the information.”
They add “that the OLC opinion creates uncertainty for federal employees and contractors across government about the scope of whistleblower protections, thereby chilling whistleblower disclosures.”
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