"New stage" of probe if Trump administration refuses to submit whistleblower complaint, Pelosi warns

Pelosi said the White House's refusal to turn over the complaint to Congress is "endangering our national security"

Published September 23, 2019 11:15AM (EDT)

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi  (Getty/Mandel Ngan)
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Getty/Mandel Ngan)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said a secret whistleblower complaint made by an intelligence officer about President Donald Trump's communications with a foreign leader "must be addressed immediately" — and warned of a "new stage of investigation" if the White House refuses to turn over the complaint to Congress.

The complaint, the existence of which was made public more than a week ago, reportedly includes allegations that Trump asked Ukrainian leaders to examine former Vice President Joe Biden's alleged involvement in the government's dismissal of a prosecutor who had investigated his son, Hunter Biden.

No evidence has emerged to suggest that Biden acted with his son's interests in mind in regard to his dealings with Ukraine.

The complaint has prompted a standoff between the House Intelligence Committee and acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire, who has refused to turn it over to the panel even though the inspector general of the intelligence committee deemed the matter an "urgent concern." Under such circumstances, federal law requires the complaint to be transmitted to congressional intelligence committees within seven days.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said last week that Maguire refused to submit the complaint to congressional panels after consulting with officials at the Department of Justice. He has demanded Maguire's testimony and a copy of the complaint, and his panel is set to hear from Maguire about the complaint Thursday.

It remains unclear if the White House was involved in preventing the disclosure of the complaint.

In her letter to lawmakers on Sunday, Pelosi said the administration is "endangering our national security and having a chilling effect on any future whistleblower who sees wrongdoing" by refusing to turn over the complaint.

"We must be sure that the president and his administration are always conducting our national security and foreign policy in the best interest of the American people — not the president's personal or political interest," she added.

Trump denies asking Ukraine to investigate Biden, but the White House has not released the complaint or a transcript of the call.

The president told reporters Sunday that he would "love" to release a transcript of his call in July with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, during which time he allegedly attempted to pressure Zelensky into investigating Biden.

"I'm going to talk about it," Trump said, according to a press pool report. "I would love to do it, but you have to be a little shy about doing it."

Earlier on Sunday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin rejected suggestions that the administration release the transcript, claiming that it would be "inappropriate" to do so.

Members of the House Intelligence Committee met Thursday with the intelligence community's inspector general behind closed doors, although they did not receive information about the complaint's contents.

"If the administration persists in blocking this whistleblower from disclosing to Congress a serious possible breach of constitutional duties by the president, they will be entering a grave new chapter of lawlessness which will take us into a whole new stage of investigation," Pelosi said.

She also called on congressional Republicans "to join us" in asking Maguire to "obey the law as we seek the truth to protect the American people and our Constitution."

In her letter, Pelosi, who has been cautious of calling for impeachment, fails to go as far as some members of her caucus who have said the allegations that Trump used the presidency in an effort to strong-arm foreign leaders into probing his political opponents beget an impeachment inquiry.

More than half of House Democrats have called for an impeachment inquiry over Trump's alleged obstruction of former special counsel Robert Mueller's probe.

Schiff, who has been similarly cautious to push for impeachment, said Sunday that if allegations that Trump asked Ukraine for dirt on Biden are true, impeachment "may be the only remedy."

By Shira Tarlo

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