On Sunday afternoon Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) released an unequivocal ultimatum to the Trump Administration to turn over an explosive whistleblower complaint about presidential misconduct or face a “whole new stage of investigation” in an otherwise collegial “Dear Colleague” open letter.
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Speaker Pelosi’s statement arrives less than forty-eight hours after the Wall Street Journal‘s bombshell report linking a July 25th phone call with the President of Ukraine to a complaint which the Trump-appointed Inspector General of the Intelligence Community (IGIC) determined is of “urgent concern” about American national security. A Washington Press source familiar with the Speaker’s thinking says that today’s letter from her is “unprecedented” throughout her two terms leading the House of Representatives and her time in Congress.
The serious ultimatum is aimed at Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, whom the Speaker demanded to comply with his mandatory duty to deliver the widely reported whistleblower complaint against Trump to House Intelligence panel Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) by this Thursday when he will appear in front of the committee for a nationally televised public hearing.
But the Speaker of the House also included an appeal across the aisle to Republican members of Congress in both houses, and it paid off quickly with a GOP defection in the Senate. Speaker Pelosi issued this official statement which is shared in its original format here:
Dear Colleague to All Members on Whistleblower Complaint
On Thursday, Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire will appear before the House Intelligence Committee in an open hearing. At that time, we expect him to obey the law and turn over the whistleblower’s full complaint to the Committee. We also expect that he will establish a path for the whistleblower to speak directly to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees as required by law.
The Intelligence Community Inspector General, who was appointed by President Trump, has determined that the complaint is both of “urgent concern and credible,” and its disclosure “relates to one of the most significant and important of the Director of National Intelligence’s responsibilities to the American people.”
The Administration’s blocking of Acting DNI Maguire from providing Congress with the whistleblower complaint calls upon him to violate the federal statute, which unequivocally states that the DNI “shall” provide Congress this information. The Administration is endangering our national security and having a chilling effect on any future whistleblower who sees wrongdoing.
We must be sure that the President and his Administration are always conducting our national security and foreign policy in the best interest of the American people, not the President’s personal or political interest.
I am calling on Republicans to join us in insisting that the Acting DNI obey the law as we seek the truth to protect the American people and our Constitution.
This violation is about our national security. The Inspector-General determined that the matter is “urgent” and therefore we face an emergency that must be addressed immediately.
If the Administration persists in blocking this whistleblower from disclosing to Congress a serious possible breach of constitutional duties by the President, they will be entering a grave new chapter of lawlessness which will take us into a whole new stage of investigation.
Thank you for your patriotism.
It is unusual for the Speaker to put out such a direct ultimatum for the Acting Director of National Intelligence to obey the law which she described in closing as a “grave new chapter of lawlessness.”
This morning, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff went on CNN to deliver a clear message, “impeachment may be the only remedy” to force Trump to comply with his attempts to obtain the urgent whistleblower complaint about an alleged incident where Donald Trump demanded that the Ukrainian president investigate his nationally highest-polling Democratic 2020 primary opponent.
Schiff and Pelosi work very closely together and have been very reserved in their approach to discussing an action to impeach the President. Prior to her ascent to the Speaker’s office, Nancy Pelosi was the Chairwoman of the House Intelligence Committee.
It is not hard to imagine what a “new stage of investigation” means for the House Judiciary Committee’s nascent impeachment inquiry led by Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY), which adopted special rules of procedure for impeachment last week.
Presently, the Democratic Coalition reports that a total of 147 members of Congress (146 D’s and one independent) support impeachment, which means that 71 additional Democratic votes would be necessary to pass a House Resolution to pursue impeachment.
Either the House Judiciary Chairman would schedule a hearing to “mark up” articles of impeachment, or there could be a floor vote on a resolution of impeachment from the entire House. While it would be unusual for the House Judiciary Committee to vote on and pass articles of impeachment before a full House resolution, the latter is not necessary.
According to outspoken House Judiciary member Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) today’s letter also indicates that House Democrats are going to promptly pave the way to use the congressional power of inherent contempt as a means of immediately punishing future witnesses who defy the committee after this week’s incomplete and smarmy testimony from Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, whom even the Speaker herself later said deserved to be held in contempt.
What remains to be seen is the Republican response to Speaker Pelosi’s outreach, but at least one Senator has broken ranks with Trump today.
“.@MittRomney is the first prominent Republican to push for disclosure of what Trump told the Ukrainians,” tweeted Johnathan Martin, a national political correspondent for the New York Times, barely one hour after Pelosi’s open letter went public.
News: @MittRomney is the first prominent Republican to push for disclosure of what Trump told the Ukrainians.
It’s “critical for the facts to come out,” he says, adding: “If the President asked or pressured Ukraine’s President to investigate his political rival…
— Jonathan Martin (@jmartNYT) September 22, 2019
“Romney was the first Congressional Republican to speak out and the others should follow his lead,” said the Press’ source familiar with the Speaker’s thinking about her overture to the GOP caucus. “They know this is wrong and need to rein in their president’s open attempt to extort political favors from a foreign nation using the power of the Oval Office.”
Of course, most Republican senators seem to be heading in the other direction and becoming Trump sycophants like former Trump critic Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) who has gone silent and accepted a public endorsement from the President. Fourteen House Republicans and four Senators have announced their retirements from Congress to come before after the 2020 elections, so it’s conceivable that some of them could break ranks with Trump on a matter of national security.
That’s because Trump’s open defiance of Congress, with direct assistance from Attorney General Bill Barr, is happening amidst his purge of the highest-ranking members of America’s national security apparatus.
In the last six weeks, we have seen a two new Acting DNIs appointed, the second of which is still serving and does have a legitimate intelligence background, who hasn’t been Senate confirmed, a new National Security Advisor whose professional background is as a lawyer and hostage negotiator, and no replacement named yet for former Principal Deputy DNI Sue Gordon. The former and the latter both require Senate confirmation.
“White House advisors without policy experience have had the presidents ear for too long,” says OD‘s source, who is concerned about the ascendance of Trump’s family members amidst the erosion of leadership in the intelligence community. “The president needs policy experts around him, again, so he can build a strong national security framework for all Americans, not just the cadre of political sycophants surrounding him today, who indulge his whims, or their agendas.”
President Trump has openly told the news media that he plans to seek and use foreign assistance in his 2020 re-election campaign after Special Counsel Mueller inexplicably decided not to indict members of his campaign for over a hundred interactions that let the Republican candidate coordinate strategy with Russia.
Then, his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani went on national television to proclaim that he’s seeking to extort or collude with the Ukrainian government on his plan to use their help to libel Joe Biden with a baseless investigation that Trump could hype in an election campaign after a series of news reports revealed the plan.
Now, Speaker Pelosi has drawn a bright red line in the sand with Trump, and if we don’t see a copy of the complaint, along with accommodation for the whistleblower to testify, then we will see the House accelerate rapidly down the roadmap towards impeachment just as a series of court battles to obtain the Mueller Report’s secret grand jury evidence and key witness testimony all come to a conclusion.
Here’s a copy of Speaker Pelosi’s “Dear Colleagues” letter:
— Grant Stern (@grantstern) September 22, 2019