So maybe this explains why the White House is cooperating with Democrats all of a sudden. I was surprised yesterday when Trump responded to impeachment rumblings in the House by promising to release the transcript of his call with Zelensky, a key Pelosi demand. I was more surprised last night when reports started swirling that he would also share the whistleblower complaint, the other document Dems have insisted on seeing. It’s not like Trump to accede to threats in a big spot when he knows his base is watching closely. “He fights!”, remember? I thought he’d declare war by telling Pelosi that she’s not getting either document because they’re protected by executive privilege and that she could sue him if she didn’t like it.
Instead he forked one item over and allegedly is preparing to transmit the other one. Why?
This might be why. Joseph Maguire, the acting DNI and the man who’s momentarily in possession of the whistleblower complaint, reportedly threatened to resign if the White House refused to let him speak to Congress tomorrow as scheduled without formally asserting privilege. That threat probably spooked Trump and his aides by making them think they were about to lose control of the situation. There are now three key players in the natsec community who are antagonistic towards them, after all: Maguire, who knows what’s in the complaint; the whistleblower himself, who may be in the process of coming forward; and of course John Bolton, who knows all sorts of things about the Trump White House’s handling of foreign affairs. Trump may have concluded that trying to block Maguire would have only further antagonized those three and ended up failing if/when Maguire decided to start talking anyway.
Better to pretend that the White House is still in control by “allowing” Maguire to testify than to try to restrain him ineffectually and trigger a sensational media narrative about Trump’s own natsec people rebelling against him.
The acting Director of National Intelligence threatened to resign over concerns that the White House might attempt to force him to stonewall Congress when he testifies Thursday about an explosive whistleblower complaint about the president, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with the matter…
The officials said that Joseph Maguire, who was thrust into the top intelligence post last month, warned the White House that he was not willing to withhold information from Congress, where he is scheduled to testify in open and closed hearings on Thursday…
In essence, Maguire was serving notice that he intended to cooperate with lawmakers unless the White House moved forward with a legal case to prevent him from doing so, the officials said…
He has at times expressed his displeasure to White House counsel Pat Cipollone and others that the White House had put him in the untenable position of denying the material to Congress over a claim that it did not fall within his jurisdiction as leader of the intelligence community.
At the White House’s behest, Maguire had been stuck arguing lately that even though the law requires him to turn over to Congress any “urgent” whistleblower complaint filed by an intelligence official, he doesn’t need to turn this one over because the complaint deals with Trump and Trump technically isn’t part of the “intelligence community.” That was a hard argument to maintain and evidently Maguire was no longer inclined to maintain it. So the White House relented and Maguire will testify tomorrow as scheduled — now, thanks to this WaPo story, with *lots* of questions to come from House Democrats about what sort of pressure he felt from higher-ups to bottle up the complaint.
Maguire, by the way, is a decorated veteran, having risen to vice admiral in the Navy and commanded SEAL Team Two for a few years before joining the natsec bureaucracy. Between his ultimatum on this and Mattis’s resignation over Syria, Team Trump has had a tougher time getting former military officers to bend to its will. Trump likes being surrounded by generals — they symbolize strength to him — but I wonder if he’ll think twice about appointing servicemen to bureaucratic vacancies going forward. If he had had a crony as acting DNI, he wouldn’t be in this jam vis-a-vis Maguire right now.
For the record, the White House insists this is all fake news:
— Kayleigh McEnany 45 Archived (@PressSec45) September 25, 2019
As I write this, news is breaking that we might get to see that whistleblower complaint sooner than we think. According to Devin Nunes, Maguire’s office is sending the complaint over to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees within the hour, at 4 p.m. ET. Whether it’ll leak tonight is unclear, but certainly the details will be addressed in tomorrow’s hearing with Maguire. Stay tuned.
Rep. @DevinNunes: "At 4 o'clock this afternoon, in fact, the DNI is going to transmit the complaint to the Intelligence Committee spaces."
— CSPAN (@cspan) September 25, 2019
Update: Interesting — now Maguire himself is denying that he threatened to resign.
ADNI MAGUIRE STATEMENT:
“At no time have I considered resigning my position since assuming this role on Aug. 16, 2019. I have never quit anything in my life, and I am not going to start now.
— Olivia Gazis (@Olivia_Gazis) September 25, 2019
WaPo claims multiple sources for their story, “current and former U.S. officials familiar with the matter.” What’s going on?
Update: The Post is not retracting.
>@washingtonpost reported that Acting DNI Maguire threatened to resign. Maguire has denied the account: “at no time have I considered resigning my position since assuming this role on Aug. 16, 2019.” A WaPo spox tells me, “we stand by the story.” https://t.co/GlGEkoK2LZ
— ErikWemple (@ErikWemple) September 25, 2019