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Trump's spy chief testifies before Congress over Ukraine whistleblower scandal

'I believe that the whistleblower and the Inspector General have acted in good faith throughout'

Chris Riotta
New York
Thursday 26 September 2019 15:13 BST
Joseph Maguire: 'In my nearly 4 decades of public service, my integrity has never been questioned until now'

Donald Trump's acting head of National Intelligence is testifying before Congress amid allegations the president abused his office in an attempt to get Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 presidential election.

Joseph Maguire is appearing before the Democrat-controlled House intelligence committee, just minutes after a whistleblower's complaint against the president was made public.

The July phone call Mr Trump made to his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, in which he appeared to ask for political dirt on Joe Biden, one of his Democratic rivals in next year's election, has lead to an official impeachment inquiry to be launched against him.

Mr Maguire declined to discuss whether he spoke to the president about the complaint in question, saying his conversations with Mr Trump are “executive privilege”. He said the White House did not ask him to assert that privilege.

In his opening remarks, the acting spy chief said he welcomed Congress’ oversight duties, adding: “I am not partisan and I am not political”.

“In light of recent reporting on the whistle-blower complaint, I want to make clear that I have upheld my responsibility to follow the law every step of the way," he added.

The intelligence official also said he was “committed to protecting whistle-blowers and ensuring every complaint is handled appropriately”.

Prior to his public testimony, Mr Maguire denied explosive allegations published in the Washington Post that said he threatened to resign from his post if the White House administration attempted to stop him from testifying or forced him to “stonewall Congress”.

On Thursday, Mr Maguire described how he first heard of the whistleblower complaint in question, saying much of the complaint “was in fact subject to executive privilege”. He said he could not release the complaint until after the president chose to release a memorandum of his phone call with the Ukrainian president a day prior.

"Until executive privilege is determined and cleared, I did not have the authority to be able to send that forward to the committee," he said. “I believe this case is unique and unprecedented.”

He said the Justice Department told him the complaint did "not meet the statutory requirement of 'urgent concern,' and found I was not legally required to transmit material to the oversight committee."

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He said he did not know the identity of the whistleblower, but when asked whether he believed the anonymous individual was a “partisan hack” as the president has said, Mr Maguire responded: “I think the whistleblower did the right thing.”

Mr Maguire described foreign election interference as “unwarranted,” adding: “It is unwelcome. It is bad for the nation.”

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