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The latest on the Trump whistleblower mystery

WaPo: Trump's contact with foreign leader spurred whistleblower
02:18

What you need to know

  • What happened: A communication between President Trump and a foreign leader prompted a whistleblower complaint.
  • What we know: So far, the director of national intelligence has not allowed lawmakers access to the complaint.
  • A meeting was held: The intelligence community inspector general met with House Intelligence Committee behind closed doors today. The intelligence community inspector general suggested to the committee that the complaint raised concerns about multiple actions but would not say if those instances involved Trump, sources familiar with the closed-door briefing told CNN.
  • Our live coverage has ended, but scroll through the posts to read more.
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The inspector general suggested whistleblower concerns were about multiple acts

The intelligence inspector general suggested to the House intelligence committee today that the whistleblower had concerns about multiple actions, CNN is told by sources familiar with the briefing.  

The inspector general did not say specifically all the acts of concern involved the president, the sources said. One source said the inspector general referenced “a sequence of events” and “alleged actions” that took place.

Another source disputed that the inspector general provided substantive details regarding the whistleblower claim.

CNN had earlier reported, citing a source familiar with the case, that the complaint was prompted by concerns over a phone call between the president and a foreign leader.

Inspector General Michael Atkinson was pressed for details but was mostly resistant to the queries, saying 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.

The New York Times was first to report there was more than one action at the heart of the whistleblower complaint.

Clarification: This post has been updated to clarify that the “multiple concerns” may not all pertain to the President.

Details from Intel inspector general meeting with the House Intelligence Committee released

The inspector general for the intelligence community indicated to lawmakers that he did not agree with the administration’s assertion that details in the whistleblower complaint should be withheld from Congress, according to a source familiar with a briefing held with House Intel members Thursday.

Inspector general for the intelligence community Michael Atkinson explained that he could not disclose the details in the complaint as the Justice Department stated it was outside the jurisdiction of the Director of National Intelligence and therefore outside his jurisdiction.

The inspector general also explained that “privileges” were being asserted by the administration, leaving lawmakers with the impression that the White House was directly involved in blocking the information from being turned over to Congress.

How the White House handles Trump's calls with foreign leaders

Last April, CNN was first to report that the White House had suspended the practice of publishing public summaries of President Trump’s phone calls with foreign leaders, though sources said readouts continued to be released internally.

The White House didn’t publish readouts, but would confirm that the calls took place after they were reported by foreign media, though officials rarely elaborated on what was said. 

But that suspension has shifted in recent months. The White House has started releasing readouts of the President’s formal calls with leaders once again — including several which are now under scrutiny after a communication between Trump and a foreign leader prompted a whistleblower complaint that is now at the center of a dispute between the director of national intelligence and Congress. It’s not clear whether that communication was a phone call.

He’s recently spoken to…

  • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin
  • French President Emmanuel Macron
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

How the readouts work now: The readouts are handled on the National Security Council side, but approved by the West Wing press office before being released. They are often brief with few details. 

A National Security Council spokesman declined to immediately elaborate on why the policy changed. It has been in effect for at least the last full month. 

One thing to note: Two people familiar with the matter cautioned that there are not readouts for every call the President makes — there are only official readouts for the official calls. 

Trump, who has multiple iPhones that aides once joked were “Trump 1” and “Trump 2,” has developed a habit in office of calling foreign leaders that he’s developed a personal relationship with, often after hours when most of his staff is not in the office. 

Phoning a foreign leader from his iPhone would circumvent the protocols usually in place for a President to phone a foreign leader. The traditional practice originates in the White House Situation Room, which would establish the phone call on secure lines and patch the leaders together. 

House Democrat says Justice Department has helped withhold the whistleblower's complaint

House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff said that the Department of Justice has helped withhold the whistleblower’s complaint — but said he did not know if the White House was also involved.

“We do know that the Department of Justice has been involved in the decision to withhold that information from Congress,” he said. “We do not know — because we cannot get an answer to the question — about whether the White House is also involved in preventing this information from coming to Congress.”

He continued: We do not have the complaint, we do not know whether the press reports are accurate or inaccurate about the contents of that complaint.

White House, along with DOJ, involved in advising director of National Intelligence not share whistleblower complaint

The White House and the Department of Justice have advised the nation’s top intelligence agency that the controversial complaint is outside intelligence activities as covered by laws governing intelligence whistleblowers, according to three sources familiar with the matter. 

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 Intel inspector general is meeting with the House Intelligence Committee, and he's not sharing details of the complaint

The inspector general for the intelligence community, who is currently meeting with the House Intelligence Committee, has so far been unwilling to share details of the controversial whistleblower complaint, according to multiple sources.

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 whistleblower concerns.

The briefing, which is behind closed doors, was described in advance by Chairman Adam Schiff as focusing on the “handling” of the complaint. But lawmakers have been pressing for details nonetheless — though their efforts have so far gone unanswered. 

Some context: The inspector general does not have the authority to discuss the details of the complaint with Congress because the director of National Intelligence has not shared the actual report with the committee and has apparently not otherwise authorized Atkinson to share those details.

The intelligence whistleblower act does not allow for details to be provided until the actual complaint has been given to Congress, CNN legal contributor Steve Vladeck explained.

Nancy Pelosi responds to the Trump whistleblower mystery

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she trusts House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff’s judgement on the whistleblower complaint against President Trump.

The complaint — which details a conversation between President Trump and an unspecified foreign leader — has put House Democrats at odds with Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, who has refused to turn over the complaint to the House Intelligence Committee.

Here’s how Pelosi put it:

“I obviously trust the judgment of our committee chair Adam Schiff, and he’s following this very closely with an expert eye on what the law is, what protections there are for whistleblowers, and where does it cross a line of a conversation that the President may have or commitment that he may make for our nation that the public should be aware of,” Pelosi said.

Trump's Director of National Intelligence has refused to let Congress see the complaint

The whistleblower complaint against President Trump has led to a standoff between Congress and acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, who has refused to turn over the complaint to the House Intelligence Committee.

Maguire refused to comply with a Tuesday deadline to hand over the complaint, which had been deemed by the intelligence community inspector general to be “credible and urgent.” 

Here’s what Maguire has agreed to: He said he will testify next week in an open session before the House intelligence Committee.

Adam Schiff, the chairman of the committee, announced Wednesday that Maguire will appear at 9 a.m. on September 26. The California Democrat also announced that the intelligence community inspector general will brief the House committee Thursday behind closed doors about how it handled the whistleblower complaint. 

Trump tweets following report of whistleblower complaint

The President just posted a series of tweets apparently in response to the report that a whistleblower made a complaint over communications between him and an unidentified foreign leader.

Here are his tweets:

Trump hasn't tweeted about the whistleblower complaint yet

The President has not yet taken to Twitter to comment on the whistleblower complaint.

As of Thursday morning at 9 a.m., he hadn’t posted a tweet in 12 hours. His last tweet was about recent polls, which he claims show “very little support for impeachment.”

House members will get a briefing on the situation today

While not privy to the details of the complaint, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff wrote in a letter to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence last week about the whistleblower.

He wrote that from what he has gleaned, he believes “the serious misconduct at issue involves the President of the United States and/or other senior White House or Administration officials.”

Schiff announced Wednesday that Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire will appear at 9 a.m. on September 26.

The California Democrat also announced that the intelligence community inspector general will brief the House committee Thursday behind closed doors about how it handled the whistleblower complaint. 

Trump talked to these 5 foreign leaders in the weeks before the complaint

The source who spoke to CNN would not disclose the foreign leader with whom President Trump was alleged to have spoken.

The complaint was filed on August 12, and White House records show Trump had spoken to or interacted with five foreign leaders in the previous five weeks, according to the The Washington Post, which first reported the complaint. They are…

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin
  • North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un
  • The Prime Minister of Pakistan
  • The Prime Minister of the Netherlands
  • The Emir of Qatar.

Remember: It’s not clear that the communication that inspired the complaint was with any of those leaders.

These are the details we still don't know about the whistleblower complaint against Trump

A whistleblower complained after President Trump communicated with a foreign leader. A lot of details of the situation are still unclear.

Here’s what we still don’t know:

  • What prompted the complaint: While The Washington Post reported that an official in was so bothered by a “promise” Trump made to a foreign leader that the official filed a formal whistleblower complaint, CNN has not independently confirmed the detail about a “promise” made to the foreign leader.
  • Who is the foreign leader: The source who spoke to CNN would not disclose the foreign leader with whom Trump was alleged to have spoken.
  • How officials are reacting: The Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment. The White House has not responded to CNN’s request for comment.

An intelligence official was so concerned by Trump's talks with a foreign leader, they complained

A communication between President Trump and a foreign leader prompted a whistleblower complaint that is now at the center of a dispute between the director of national intelligence and Congress, a source familiar with the case told CNN.

About the complaint: The concern was first revealed by The Washington Post, which reported that an official in the American intelligence community was so bothered by a “promise” Trump made to a foreign leader that the official filed a formal whistleblower complaint with the inspector general of the intelligence community, citing two former US officials familiar with the matter.

CNN has not independently confirmed the detail about a “promise” made to the foreign leader.

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GO DEEPER

Trump at center of new intelligence storm as whistleblower mystery explodes
Trump's communications with a foreign leader sparked whistleblower complaint
Acting spy chief refuses to comply with House intel panel subpoena
Whistleblowers' rights could be at risk under Trump's new labor board