Donald Trump’s attempt to mold the U.S. national security apparatus into malleable puppets willing to carry out his every wish has run into a serious problem.
The president has slowly but surely decimated the senior leadership of U.S. intelligence and national security agencies since taking office — as the turnover in these crucial areas rivals that of other cabinet-level positions, with Trump now on his fourth Homeland Security Secretary, his fifth national security advisor, and his third Director of National Intelligence.
Now, according to an article in The Washington Post, his latest acting Director of National Intelligence, Joseph Maguire — thrown in the deep end of the whistleblower scandal around the administration’s attempts to get the Ukranian Government to investigate Joe Biden’s son — has threatened to resign because he is worried that Trump may try to compel him to stonewall Congress when he is scheduled to testify before them on the intelligence community whistleblower’s complaint tomorrow.
The threat by the acting director — who took over the position from Dan Coats after the former Indiana Senator was forced out by Trump reportedly over policy disagreements with the president — demonstrates that the friction between the White House and the intelligence community has not been lessened by Trump’s latest personnel changes, particularly in light of the attention that the whistleblower’s allegations have brought to the relationship.
Citing “current and former U.S. officials familiar with the matter,” The Post says that Maguire has notified the White House that he would not be willing to withhold information from Congress that they are legally entitled to receive.
The move was widely seen as an effort to force the administration to make an explicit claim of executive privilege in regards to the as-yet-undisclosed whistleblower complaint and remove Maguire from the untenable role of refusing to provide the material to Congressional investigators with the dubious claim that it was outside his jurisdiction as acting Director of National Intelligence. The Post reports that Maguire has complained to White House counsel Pat Cipollone about the difficult position in which the Trump administration had placed him.
Despite the dispute now being out in the open, it is still uncertain whether the White House has succumbed to Maguire’s resignation threat by allowing him to freely testify before Congress.
With the ball now in the White House’s court, we will have to wait to see if they take action to prevent Maguire from divulging all he knows about the whistleblower’s complaint with a claim of executive privilege or if the acting DNI will be able to tell Congress what he knows about both the complaint and the administration’s efforts to suppress it.
UPDATE: Maguire is now denying that he ever threatened to quit over the whistleblower testimony after Trump called the story “Fake News” at a press conference this afternoon. The Washington Post still stands by its reporting, it replied.
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Original reporting by , and Karoun Demirjian at The Washington Post.