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by Sharon Rondeau

House Intel Committee Chairman Adam Schiff opens the “whistleblower” hearing on Capitol Hill, September 26, 2019

(Sep. 26, 2019) — At 9:09 AM EDT, the House Intelligence Committee is awaiting the arrival of acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire for his testimony on a whistleblower complaint is said to have spurred House Democrats to launch and “impeachment inquiry” into President Donald Trump.

It is rare for a DNI to testify publicly, and hence the intense interest in what Maguire will say.

Early reports said that Maguire wanted to communicate the whistleblower’s complaint to Congress immediately after receiving it but that he was forestalled by the Justice Department.

At 9:10 AM, Maguire is seated and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff has arrived. Maguire is the sole witness in Thursday’s hearing.

Prior to Maguire’s arrival, Catherine Herridge of Fox News read portions of the whistleblower complaint, which was declassified and released by the Justice Department moments before. As Fox News previously reported, the whistleblower stated that he was not a first-hand witness to the alleged wrongdoing on the president’s part.

At 10:45 a.m., Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi will hold her weekly caucus press conference.  On Tuesday afternoon, Pelosi announced the launch of an “impeachment inquiry” based on allegations that Trump issued a quid pro quo to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on a phone call in July.

The five-transcript of the call was released Wednesday.  The whistleblower complaint claims that the process by which the call record was preserved was improper, among other things, and contains two redacted sections, according to Herridge.

At 9:11, Schiff began his opening statement, making the argument that Trump betrayed his oath of office in the call with Zelenskiy.  Schiff characterized the phone call in his own words, claiming that at the end of it, Trump told Zelenskiy, “Don’t call me again; I’ll call you when you’ve done what I asked” (paraphrased).

Rather than recognizing Maguire and asking for his opening statement, which is customary, Schiff asked Maguire his first question after ranking member Devin Nunes delivered his opening remarks.  Realizing his mistake, Schiff then asked Maguire for his opening statement without time contraint.

In his lengthy remarks, Maguire said that issued involving “executive privilege” led the Intelligence Community Inspector General and Maguire to refer the complaint to the DOJ rather than release it to the Intelligence Committees.

At 9:44 a.m., Schiff regained the floor and repeated his question if the complaint involved “serious wrongdoing by the President of the United States.”

The ICIG reportedly found the complaint “credible” and of an “urgent” nature, but Maguire said he could not “judge” whether or not the complaint was “credible.”  “Can we at least agree that the Inspector General made a sound conclusion that this whistleblower complaint was credible?” Schiff pressed Maguire.

Maguire responded that it was his role to ascertain whether or not “executive privilege” applied to the matter.  Ultimately, the White House waived the privilege by releasing the documents, Maguire said.

Schiff did not accept Maguire’s contentions. “So the first place you went…was the White House,” Schiff said.

In response to Nunes’s questioning, Maguire called the complaint “unique and unprecedented.”

“This has basically been an orchestrated effort over two weeks,” Nunes said.  He then asked Maguire if the intelligence community “leaked” the existence of the complaint, which Maguire confidently denied.

Nunes compared the “leak” of the complaint to portions of leaked transcripts from Turmp’s calls early in his administration to the president of Mexico and the Australian prime minister.

Nunes argued that the “intelligence community” “captures and disseminates” the transcripts of Trump’s calls.  “Somebody’s leaking this, and it’s likely coming from the agencies that you oversee,” he said to Maguire.  The Acting DNI said that “a number of people” were “briefed on the call,” including White House staff and the U.S. State Department.

“I’m not aware of this ever happening before,” Nunes continued on the topic of leaks.

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