Intelligence Committee Convenes to Hear from Intelligence Chief: Live Updates

Intelligence Committee Convenes to Hear from Intelligence Chief: Live Updates

A whistle-blower in the intelligence community accused President Trump of using his office to try to get Ukraine’s government to help him in the 2020 presidential election, according to a complaint released Thursday by the House Intelligence Committee.

“In the course of my duties, I have received information from multiple U.S. government officials that the President of the United States is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election.”

The complaint goes on to say the president’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani is “a central figure in this effort,” but that Attorney General William P. Barr “appears to be involved as well.”

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam B. Schiff of California, vowed to protect the whistle-blower, an intelligence officer, from reprisal as he released the complaint.

Joseph Maguire, the intelligence chief at the center of the fight over a whistle-blower complaint about President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, is making a much-anticipated appearance before the House Intelligence Committee.

It is unclear how much Mr. Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, will be able to disclose about the whistle-blower’s complaint, much of which remains classified. He is also expected to avoid revealing any details of the whistle-blower’s identity, which could be a violation of the law.

Mr. Maguire will be able to discuss why he and his general counsel disagreed with the inspector general for the intelligence agencies that the complaint needed to be handed over to the congressional intelligence panels.

The differences of opinion between Mr. Maguire and Michael Atkinson, the inspector general, will be at the heart of many questions from House Democrats, who objected angrily to Mr. Maguire’s refusal to share the material with Congress, which they said was required by law. The Democrats will also hammer away at the consultations between Mr. Maguire’s office, the Justice Department and the White House, seeking to find out whether the administration influenced Mr. Maguire’s decision. They plan to seek assurances that the whistle-blower will be protected.

Mr. Maguire is expected to argue that his own lawyers reached the same conclusions as the Justice Department’s, and he will have a chance to defend his reputation. The dispute has put Mr. Maguire, a former Navy SEAL and three-star admiral, in a bind, caught between a duty to inform Congress and legal advice that said the complaint could not be handed over.

House Democrats passed a significant milestone late Wednesday: 218 lawmakers, a majority of the House, are now on the record supporting an impeachment inquiry into Mr. Trump’s behavior.

Though the number is not exactly predictive of how lawmakers might vote on actual articles of impeachment, it spoke to the growing consensus among Democrats that emerging details about Mr. Trump’s attempts to pressure President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to help tarnish a leading Democratic rival may reshape Mr. Trump’s presidency and the 116th Congress.

Democrats pledged to maintain their legislative work independent of the inquiry, but any cooperation with the White House could soon collapse as the specter of impeachment clouds out other topics.

Republicans have made clear that they believe Democrats are rushing prematurely into a grave proceeding, but several members of the president’s party who saw the classified complaint on Wednesday either called for its public release or said they were troubled by what they saw.

Senator Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska and a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, emerged from reading the whistle-blower complaint on Wednesday evening and urged both parties not to rush to “partisan tribalism.” Republicans he said, “ought not be rushing to circle the wagons and say there’s no there there, when there’s obviously a lot that is troubling there.”

The speaker is scheduled to step before the cameras at 10:45 a.m. for her weekly news conference, and rarely has there been one of such interest.

A day after throwing her support behind an inquiry, Ms. Pelosi spent Wednesday locked in strategy meetings with her leadership team, top aides and the leaders of six committees investigating Mr. Trump. The objective: Sketch out a path for an investigation that could lead to articles of impeachment that would formally charge Mr. Trump with high crimes and misdemeanors.

Many questions remain unanswered about how quickly the House may move to assemble potential articles and on what topics.

Democrats are not yet ready to limit their inquiry to just the Ukraine episode. They plan to continue investigating other, unrelated matters as possible impeachable offenses, including the findings of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, who investigated Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections and Mr. Trump’s attempts to derail that inquiry. Those topics could help populate impeachment articles.

But during a meeting with members of her leadership team, the speaker initiated a discussion about whether Democrats should limit their case strictly to the Ukraine matter and attempts by Mr. Trump and his administration to keep it from Congress, people familiar with the conversation said. An aide to Ms. Pelosi cautioned that no final decisions had been made.

In a positive sign for the speaker, the House’s inquiry is already getting results, at least in the form of documentary evidence.

First on Wednesday, the White House released a reconstruction of a call between Mr. Trump and the Ukrainian leader that showed the American president pressing his counterpart to work with Attorney General William P. Barr and Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, to investigate Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and other Democrats.

Later in the day, Mr. Maguire’s office shared a copy of the whistle-blower complaint with the intelligence panels for the first time.

Mr. Trump spent the morning re-tweeting supporters, White House and campaign aides and family members, who echoed the talking points that his White House blasted out Wednesday to friends and foes alike — the real scandal is with Mr. Biden Jr. and the Democrats, the whistle-blower is politically biased, the news is all fake, perpetuated by a corrupt Washington.

Mr. Trump may have an opportunity to speak with reporters before the fund-raiser, which begins at 10 a.m., an hour after the start of the congressional hearing.

The president is slated to leave for Washington just before noon. If he chooses to, he can watch the congressional hearing on TVs on Air Force One.

But either way, Mr. Trump will be back by midafternoon — plenty of time for tweeting.

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