“WE RESPECTFULLY DECLINE COMMENT”
by Sharon Rondeau
(Jan. 9, 2020) — On Tuesday, The Post & Email reported on an interview between Rep. Devin Nunes, ranking member of the House Permanent Subcommittee on Intelligence (HPSCI), and journalist Sara A. Carter posted Monday.
As Carter reported, Nunes said that committee Republicans are conducting an investigation into Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG) Michael Atkinson, a Trump appointee whose closed-door transcript from his October 4 testimony to the committee has not been released by Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA28).
Schiff replaced Nunes as chairman of the committee last January after Democrats gained a majority in the House of Representatives in the midterm elections.
In short order, Schiff released more than a dozen transcripts from other witnesses called to testify in the House’s “impeachment inquiry” against President Trump commenced on September 24. During the interview with Carter, Nunes claimed that Atkinson’s testimony is damaging to the case against Trump as well as to Atkinson personally. The impeachment of President Trump, voted affirmatively on December 18, ostensibly arose from a “whistleblower” complaint filed in August with the ICIG.
The New York Times was the first to report that Schiff’s office had knowledge of the complaint before it became public. Committee member John Ratcliff (R-TX4), a former federal prosecutor, has gone farther to allege that Schiff “helped start” the whistleblower complaint.
Schiff has denied knowing the identity of the whistleblower. While first adamant that the individual would testify publicly, Schiff changed his position in late November with the explanation: “One, we were able to prove everything in the whistleblower complaint with witnesses that had firsthand information; and second, the president and his allies effectively put that whistleblower’s life in danger.”
On September 26, Acting Director of National intelligence Joseph Maguire testified to HPSCI publicly that he and Atkinson had a difference of opinion over whether the whistleblower complaint should be conveyed to Congress, as is generally required by federal statute, as the complaint focused on the president and not a member of the Intelligence Community. While Maguire sought guidance from the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), Atkinson reportedly found the complaint “credible” and “of urgent concern.”
The mainstream media has largely not reported Nunes’s revelation made on Monday, although various internet outlets picked up the story. Nunes said that he and two other House Republicans wrote to Atkinson with “one question” and received “a “typical IC response, which was to not answer the question.”
The letter was sent September 30, Nunes said on Wednesday evening.
“There’s very few of us [who] actually know what’s in the transcript,” Nunes told Carter during the interview when she asked if he believes Schiff will eventually release it.
On October 16, co-founder of The Federalist Sean Davis reported:
Three top senators blasted the intelligence community inspector general (ICIG) Michael Atkinson for continuing to stonewall congressional efforts to determine why whistleblower rules and forms requiring firsthand information were suddenly changed last month. As The Federalist first reported and the ICIG confirmed in a subsequent press release, whistleblower forms and guidance requiring all complaints to contain firsthand information were secretly changed and then backdated after the ICIG received an anti-Trump complaint that consisted entirely of second-hand information.
Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., and Mike Lee, R-Utah, wrote Atkinson on Wednesday demanding answers about his office’s actions and behavior regarding the whistleblower rules changes. The lawmakers expressed dismay at his refusal to answer their previous queries on the matter.
On Wednesday night, Nunes appeared on “The Ingraham Angle” and more specifically said that “The very origins of this investigation are shady and don’t make any sense. From the time that the whistleblower first came forward, to the IG, where the forms didn’t match, it wasn’t urgent, didn’t have any firsthand knowledge, the form later changed, then it was backdated, … then we had to hear from the whistleblower and then we didn’t have to hear from the whistleblower,”
As The Post & Email reported on Tuesday, a late-afternoon phone call to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) yielded the response that the media staff had left for the day.
Early Wednesday afternoon, we again called the ODNI, where a woman gave us an email address to which to send media questions.
Our email reads as follows:
1. Can the DNI address why Rep. Nunes believes that Inspector General Michael Atkinson either ‘lied’ or needs to amend his testimony to the House Permanent Subcommittee on Intelligence?
2. :Did the whistleblower’s complaint involve a matter normally handled by the Intelligence Community?
Thank you very much.
Sharon Rondeau, Editor
The Post & Email
However, almost instantly we received an auto-response from the address stating that the individual is out of the office on an extended medical leave, referring us back to the ODNI’s office and the same email address.
We called the ODNI a third time and reported the auto-response. At that point, we were given an alternate email address to which to send our questions, which we did.
On Thursday morning, we received the following initial response from Media Relations Office Susan H. Meisner:
Your questions are best addressed by the IC IG public affairs office (cc’d), at IC_IG_PAO@dni.gov.
We responded simultaneously to both addresses with, “OK, thank you.” Less than an hour later, we received a response from the third DNI addressee, which reads as follows:
The ICIG’s office is in receipt of your inquiry, and thank you for the opportunity to respond. We respectfully decline comment.
Thank you for your interest in the Office of the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community.
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