Maloney challenges intelligence official about withholding Trump whistleblower complaint

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney played a role this week in the televised questioning of a top intelligence official about the internal complaint that had just lit a fuse in Washington, propelling House Democrats into an impeachment inquiry against President Trump.

Maloney, a Cold Spring Democrat who serves on the House Intelligence Committee, got his turn during the testimony on Thursday of Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence. Maguire had received a whistleblower’s complaint reporting that Trump had asked the Ukrainian president to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, and had talked about American military aid to Ukraine during the same phone call. Macguire withheld the report from Congress after consulting with the White House and the office of Attorney General William Barr, who was named in the complaint.

Maloney wanted to know why Macguire had asked two subjects of the complaint for permission to forward it.

“My question, sir, was when you were considering prudence did you think it was prudent to give a veto power over whether the Congress saw this serious allegation of wrong doing to the two people implicated by it,” Maloney asked. “Is that prudent?”

Maguire responded: “I have to work with the situation the way it is, Congressman Maloney. Only the White House can determine or waive executive privilege. There is no one else to go to. And as far as a second opinion, my only avenue of that was to go to the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel.”

Maloney came back: “And you understand, sir, that if unchallenged by your own Inspector General, your decision, that prudence, would have prevented these serious allegations from ever reaching Congress?”

Maloney went on to ask Macguire several times if he had discussed the report directly with Trump, which Macguire said he couldn’t answer because his conversations with the president are confidential.

Maloney had joined the growing ranks of impeachment supporters two days earlier after the Ukraine controversy erupted, with the caveat that he would back such an inquiry unless recordings of Trump’s phone calls with the Ukrainian president and the whistleblower complaint were given to the Intelligence Committee and proved exculpatory. A rough transcript of a July call and the complaint have since been made public.

The Republican planning to challenge Maloney for the 18th District seat next year blasted Maloney for supporting impeachment on Tuesday, and fired additional shots after the releases of the transcript and complaint.

“The whistleblower complaint released yesterday has been completely debunked by the original transcript of the phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Zelensky,” Republican candidate Chele Chiavacci Farley said in a statement on Friday. “There was no quid pro quo.¬†It is reprehensible to watch members of Congress shamelessly push false information, despite evidence¬†to the contrary.”

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