The US’s spy chief reportedly threatened to resign if the White House blocked him from testifying before Congress

US President Donald Trump. Reuters
  • The acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, threatened to resign if the White House tried to stop him from testifying before Congress, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.
  • Maguire is scheduled to appear before the House Intelligence Committee in open and closed sessions on Thursday.
  • He reportedly told White House officials that he intended to move forward with the testimony unless the White House had an explicit legal reason to stop him from appearing.
  • Maguire is at the centre of a firestorm involving a whistleblower complaint about President Donald Trump and a phone call Trump had with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
  • Maguire is said to be frustrated with White House officials who stopped him from transmitting the complaint to Congress – as he’s required to do under federal law – on the grounds that it didn’t fall within his jurisdiction.
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The acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, threatened to resign if he wasn’t allowed to testify freely before Congress, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday.

Maguire is scheduled to testify Thursday morning about a whistleblower complaint involving President Donald Trump, but there were concerns that the White House might impose limits on his testimony or stop him from appearing all together.

The Post reported that Maguire told the White House that he would not withhold information from Congress and would hold back on cooperating only if the White House gave him a legal reason for doing so.

The report also said Maguire was displeased that White House counsel Pat Cipollone and other officials had stopped him from transmitting the whistleblower complaint about Trump to Congress on the grounds that it did not fall within his authority.

Maguire, however, objected to reports Wednesday that he had threatened to resign. “At no time have I considered resigning my position since assuming this role on Aug. 16, 2019,” he said in a statement. “I have never quit anything in my life, and I am not going to start now.”

At the centre of the complaint is a July 25 phone call Trump had with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Notes of the call that the White House released Wednesday showed Trump repeatedly pressing Zelensky to discredit the Russia investigation and investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and Biden’s son Hunter. Trump asked Zelensky to do him that “favour” after Zelensky raised the issue of US military aid to Ukraine.

Read more:
Trump aides were so afraid he’d pressure Ukraine to investigate Biden that they tried to derail his call with the Ukrainian president

The intelligence community inspector general, Michael Atkinson, reportedly told Maguire that the conversation could amount to a violation of campaign finance law on Trump’s part.

Maguire and Atkinson then referred the complaint to the Justice Department for criminal investigation.

The Justice Department’s criminal division reviewed the whistleblower’s complaint and determined that there were no grounds for an investigation of Trump’s behaviour, The New York Times reported. Officials are said to have decided that the memo recounting Trump’s phone call with Zelensky didn’t show him violating campaign finance laws by asking for a financial contribution or an “item of tangible value.”

Trump had ordered the US to withhold the nearly $US400 million military-aid package to Ukraine days before the phone call. The US president made no direct mention of offering aid in exchange for Zelensky’s assistance in investigating Biden, but he brought up how the US did “a lot for Ukraine” right before asking Zelensky for a favour.

Early in the call, Trump reminded Zelensky that “we do a lot for Ukraine.” He continued: “We spend a lot of effort and a lot of time. Much more than the European countries are doing.”

Zelensky agreed, telling Trump he was “absolutely right.” He added, “The European Union should be our biggest partner but technically the United States is a much bigger partner than the European Union … the United States is doing quite a lot for Ukraine.”

Read more:
The notes on Trump’s call with Ukraine’s president hint at a quid pro quo over investigating Joe Biden’s son

The Ukrainian president went on to thank Trump for “your great support in the area of defence.”

“We are ready to continue to cooperate for the next steps,” he continued. “Specifically, we’re almost ready to buy more Javelins from the United States for defence purposes,” referring to US-made anti-tank missiles.

Trump then responded: “I would like you to do us a favour though, because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike … I guess you have one of your wealthy people … The server, they say Ukraine has it.”

“I would like to have the attorney general call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it,” Trump said, according to the notes. “Whatever you can do, it’s very important that you do it if that’s possible.”

He then pivoted to discussing Biden: “There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the attorney general would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it … It sounds horrible to me.”

The White House decided on Tuesday evening to release the whistleblower’s complaint to congressional intelligence committees. The move came after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the House was launching a formal impeachment inquiry into Trump and after the Senate, in a rare show of bipartisanship, unanimously voted for a resolution calling for the complaint to be released to Congress.

The House Intelligence Committee’s ranking member, Devin Nunes, reportedly told the House chamber that Maguire would transmit the complaint to Congress by 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday.