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House Judiciary Committee Hearing Coverage. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired September 26, 2019 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[11:00:00]

STEFANIK: My question relates to, prior to the transmission on August 26, from the I.G. to the DNI, were there any conversations that you had with the I.G. prior to August 26, related to this matter?

MAGUIRE: Congresswoman, there's been a lot that's happened in the last several weeks. As far as the timeline is concerned, I think that -- I'd like to take that and get back to you and give you a full chronology, if I may, on the actual timeline of events.

STEFANIK: That would be very helpful to this committee in terms of if there were any preliminary conversations, what was discussed and if there was any action taken as a result of those conversations.

I want to turn to the complaint itself, which is made public for the American -- for the American public to read and let me preface this by saying that I greatly appreciate your statement, that you believe the whistleblower is operating in good faith, I think that's very important for Americans to hear.

But on page one, and I'm not going to improvise for parody purposes, like the Chairman of this committee did, I'm going to quote it directly. On page one the complaint reads, quote, "I was not a direct witness to most of the events described." This seems like a very important line to look into and I think the American public will have questions, in particular, about that line.

So, my question to you is, for the record, did the I.G. fully investigate the allegations into this complaint at this time? Has the I.G. fully investigated the allegations in this complaint?

MAGUIRE: As I said earlier, Congresswoman, I believe that the Intelligence Community Inspector General did a thorough investigation with the 14-day timeframe that he had, and under that timeline, to the best of his ability, made the determination that I was both credible and urgent. I have no reason to doubt that Michael Atkinson did anything but his job.

STEFANIK: Sure. So, when you talk about a full investigation, were the veracity of the allegations in the complaint looked into? There were many references to White House officials. Do you know if the I.G. spoke with those White House officials? Do you know if he investigated, again, the truthfulness of these allegations? Or, was it a preliminary investigation? MAGUIRE: Congresswoman, I'd have to defer to the I.G. to respond to you on that. But to -- all I do know, although I do not know the identity of the whistleblower, I do know that Michael Atkinson had, in fact, discussed this with the whistleblower and found his complaint to be credible.

As far as who else he spoke with, I am unaware of what went on in Michael Atkinson's investigation into this matter.

STEFANIK: So, as of today, the only individual that we know the I.G. spoke with is the -- is the complainant, is the author and the whistleblower?

MAGUIRE: Congresswoman, what I'm saying is, I'm unaware who else Michael Atkinson may have spoken to. I'm just unfamiliar with his investigative process and everybody that he spoke to in this regard.

STEFANIK: Thank you for the answer on the record. Again, for the American public, they're going to have many questions as they read this complaint today, and because on page one it says no direct knowledge, I think it's very important that we conduct our -- that we have questions answered for individuals that do have direct knowledge. And with that I yield back.

MAGUIRE: Thank you Congresswoman.

SCHIFF: Mr. Swalwell.

SWALWELL: Thank you. Mr. Maguire, do you agree that the definition of a cover-up is an attempt to prevent people from discovering a crime?

MAGUIRE: I'd say that's close. I mean, I'm sure there's other ones, but I don't disagree with that sir.

SWALWELL: And in the whistleblower's complaint, the whistleblower alleges that immediately after the president's call with the President of Ukraine on July 25, White House lawyers moved quickly to direct White House officials to move electronic transcripts from one computer system, where it was normally stored, to a secret classified information system, is that right?

MAGUIRE: Congresswoman -- excuse me, sir, I apologize -- Congressman --

SWALWELL: Is that what was alleged in the whistleblower complaint?

MAGUIRE: Congressman --

SWALWELL: Yes or no.

MAGUIRE: Sir, all I know is that the allegation --

SWALWELL: Is that what -- I'm asking you that. That's what's alleged.

MAGUIRE: That's the allegation. SWALWELL: And you read that allegation and the first people that you go to after you read that allegation are the White House lawyers who are telling the White House officials who see this transcript and move into a secret compartmentalized system? Those are the first people you go to?

MAGUIRE: Well, let's say a couple of things --

SWALWELL: Is that -- yes or no?

MAGUIRE: Yes, but --

SWALWELL: OK, I'm going to -- I'm going to keep going here. So you get this complaint, Inspector General says urgent, credible, you have no wiggle room to not go to Congress and instead you send your concern to the subject of the complaint, the White House. So that the White House tell you after you sent your concern about privilege -- did they tell you to go to the Department of Justice next?

MAGUIRE: We -- my -- my team, my council in consultation with the intelligence community inspector general went to the Office of Legal Counsel.

SWALWELL: So --

MAGUIRE: And they -- we were not directed to do that. We --

SWALWELL: And Mr. Maguire, you said that this did not involve ongoing intelligence activities, however, the whistleblower says that this is not the first time that the president's transcripts with their leaders were improperly moved to an intelligence community codeword (ph) system. Is that a part of the allegation?

MAGUIRE: I believe that's in the letter and I will let the letter speak for itself, sir.

SWALWELL: Well, what can also speak for itself is that if a transcript of the foreign leader is improperly moved into an intelligence community classification system, that actually would involve your responsibilities, is that right?

MAGUIRE: Not necessarily. That is -- I do not -- it is not underneath my authority and responsibility, and once again, this is an allegation that has been made, does not necessarily mean that that is a true statement.

SWALWELL: And the allegation was determined to be urgent and credible by the Inspector General, is that right?

MAGUIRE: Yes it was.

SWALWELL: So would you also want to know, though, considering that you are the director of national intelligence and transcripts are being moved into a secret intelligence system whether other transcripts, perhaps maybe the president's phone calls with Vladimir Putin, with MBS of Saudi Arabia or Erdogan of Turkey or Kim Jong-un, would you want to know if those were also being improperly moved because the president is trying to cover-up something?

MAGUIRE: Congressman, how the White House, the office of the -- the executive office of the president and the National Security Council conduct their business is their business.

SWALWELL: Well it's actually your business to protect America's secrets, is that right?

MAGUIRE: It's all of ours, this committee as well.

SWALWELL: And if there's cover-up activity because the president is working improperly with a foreign government, that could compromise America's secrets, is that right?

MAGUIRE: Congressman, there is an allegation of a cover-up. I'm sure an investigation and before this committee might lend credits or disprove that. But right now, all we have is an allegation -- an allegation for secondhand information from a whistleblower. I have --

SWALWELL: And the department --

MAGUIRE: -- no knowledge on whether or not that is true and accurate statement.

SWALWELL: The Department of Justice opinion you relied upon said that you are not responsible for preventing foreign election interference, is that right? That was in the opinion.

MAGUIRE: What the Office of Legal Counsel did was over 11 pages --

SWALWELL: No, they -- they said (ph) --

MAGUIRE: -- wrote an (ph) opinion to finding and explaining their justification for it not complying with urgent (inaudible).

SWALWELL: Are you responsible for preventing election interference?

MAGUIRE: Election interference --

SWALWELL: By a foreign government.

MAGUIRE: Congressman, election interference --

SWALWELL: I hope you know this answer is yes or no. Are you responsible for preventing election interference?

MAGUIRE: My -- my -- my -- election interference is --

SWALWELL: Boy, I really -- I really hope you know the answer.

MAGUIRE: -- is the top -- it is the priority of the intelligence community?

SWALWELL: Is it your priority though?

MAGUIRE: Yes it is. SWALWELL: OK. So this complaint also alleges a shakedown with a foreign government by the United States President involving a rogue actor, as Mr. Quigley pointed out, who has no clearance, no authority under the United States and an effort by the White House to move the transcript of this call to a secret system. Is that right? That's at least what's alleged.

MAGUIRE: Congressman, I believe that election security is my most fundamental priority. However, this complaint focused on the conversation by the president with another foreign leader, not election security.

SWALWELL: I yield back. Thank you.

MAGUIRE: Thank you, Congressman.

SCHIFF: And if that conversation involved the president requesting help in the form of intervention in our election, is that not an issue of interference in our election?

MAGUIRE: Chairman, once again, this was sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation --

SCHIFF: No, I understand that but -- but you're not suggesting, are you, that the president is somehow immune from the laws that preclude a U.S. person from seeking foreign help in a U.S. election, are you?

MAGUIRE: What I -- I am saying, Chairman Schiff, is that no one, none of us is above the law in this country.

SCHIFF: Mr. Hurd.

HURD: Thank you, Chairman. (Inaudible), it's a pleasure to be here with you. I tell all my friends all the time that I've gotten more surveillance as a member of Congress than I did as an undercover officer in the CIA and I think you've gotten more arrows shot at you, you know, since you've been DNI than you did in your almost four decades on the battlefield. A specific question. The letter that's contained in the whistleblower package is actually dated August 12 and I recognize this maybe a better question to be asking the IC IG. That letter is dated August 12 and it's to the chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and to the chairman of this committee. Do you know if the whistleblower provided that letter to those two chairmen concurrently with the IC IG?

MAGUIRE: No, Congressman, as I said earlier, I believe that the whistleblower and the IC IG acted in good faith and followed the law every step of the way.

HURD: Good -- good -- good copy. We've talked about the way the law on -- on -- on the whistleblower statute is -- -- is says you shall share if it's designed to be an urgent concern, however, best practice has always been to share regardless of whether that urgent concern. Do you see any reason -- negative impact on the intelligence community if that legislation was changed to say all whistleblower complaints should be shared with -- with the committees? MAGUIRE: That -- that's correct. And -- and in addition to that, Congressman, I mean, let's just say the allegation was made against a member of this committee. I -- you know, members of this committee, although you are the Intelligence Committee, are not members of the intelligence community and as the DNI, I have no authority or responsibility over this committee.

HURD: But my -- my question is do you think that if every whistleblower complaint that was brought to the Intelligence Community Inspector General was always shared with this committee, would that have any impact on intelligence equities? And I ask that because I don't know why, when the statute was written, that it didn't say all should be shared rather than only urgent concern. And my question to you, as the head of the Intelligence Community, do you think if we change that law, would it have impact on intelligence equities.

MAGUIRE: I don't think that law could be changed to cover all things that might possibly happen. I think we have a good law. I think it is well-written. However, as I said, Congressman, this is unprecedented and this is a unique situation why this one is -- why we're sitting here this morning.

HURD: Sure. And I hope we're not in this position in, however, if we do find ourselves in this position again, I want to make sure that there's not any uncertainty in when information should be shared to this committee. Was the ODNI or under you or under your predecessor aware of an OMB decision to suspend Ukrainian aid, as was alleged in this complaint?

MAGUIRE: As far as I am concerned personally, Congressman, no, I have no knowledge of that and I am unaware if anybody within the ODNI is aware of that. I just don't know the answer to that.

HURD: When, and I apologize for a lot of these legal questions that may be best directed at somebody else, but if feel like you have a perspective. When does OLC - Office of Legislative...

MAGUIRE: Legal Counsel.

HURD: Legal Counsel, excuse me, guidance override laws passed by Congress?

MAGUIRE: The Office of Legal Counsel does not override laws passed by Congress. What it does is it passes legal opinion for those of us who are in the executive branch and the Office of Legal Counsel legal opinion is binding to everyone within the executive branch.

HURD: Good copy. And I have two final questions and I'm going to ask them together to give you the time to answer ...

MAGUIRE: Yes, Sir.

HURD: ... them both. What is your assessment of how intelligence operations in general are going to be impacted by this latest episode and when I say episode I'm referring to the media circus, the political circus, the technical issues that are related to this whistleblower revelation. You alluded to it in some of your previous questions but I would like your -- your assessment on how this could impact intelligence operation in the future and I do believe this is your first time testifying to Congress in your position, right? And I would welcome in the end, I know this is off - a little off topic, what do you see are greatest challenges and threats to this country as the Director of National Intelligence?

MAGUIRE: Well let me answer the later part of that. I think that the greatest challenge that we face is not necessarily from kinetic strike with Russia or China or Iran or North Korea. I think the greatest challenge that we do have is to make sure that we maintain the integrity of our election system. We know right now that there are foreign powers who are trying to get us to question the validity on whether or not our laws -- our elections are valid. So first and foremost, I think that protecting the sanctity of our elections within the United States, whether it be national, city , state, local, is perhaps the most important job that we have with the intelligence community.

Outside of that, we do face significant threats. I'd say number one is not necessarily kinetic but cyber. This is a cyber world (ph). We talk about whether - not the great competition is taking place with Russia and China and we are building ships and weapons to do that but in my estimation, the great competition with these countries is taking place right now and is doing that in the cyber...

HURD: And my time is, I think, running out but the broader implications on intelligence operations of this current whistleblower situation.

MAGUIRE: Well I will tell you in light of this, I clearly have a lot of work as the leader of this community to do - to reassure my - to reassure the intelligence community that in fact, I am totally committed to the Whistleblower Program and I'm absolutely - absolutely committed to protecting the anonymity of this individual as well as making sure that Michael Atkinson who is our ISIG continues to be able to do his job unfettered. But I think that with that, I certainly have to be proactive in my communications with my team.

HURD: Mr. Chairman, I yield back the time I may or may not have.

SCHIFF: Mr. Castro.

CASTRO: Thank you Chairman. Thank you Director Maguire for your testimony today. I want to say thank you also to the whistleblower for having the courage and the bravery to come forward on behalf of the nation. Thank you to Mr. Atkinson also, the inspector general, for his courage in coming forward to Congress.

You mentioned that you believe that the whistleblower's report is -- is credible, that the whistleblower is credible, that the whistleblower acted in good faith. You've had a chance now as we have and I believe the American people have had an opportunity to review both the whistleblower complaint and the transcript was released of the phone call between the President of the United States and the President of the Ukraine. You've read both documents by now haven't you?

MAGUIRE: Yes, Congressman.

CASTRO: Would you say that the whistleblower's complaint is remarkably consistent with the transcript that was released?

MAGUIRE: I would say that the that the whistleblower's complaint is in alignment with what was released yesterday by the of the president.

CASTRO: OK. I want to read you a quick section of both to underscore exactly how accurate and consistent this complaint is. On page 2 of the whistleblower's complaint, the whistleblower says, "According to White House officials who had direct knowledge of the call, the president pressured Mr. Zelensky to..." and then there's a few bullet point. The first one says, "Initiate or continue an investigation into the activities of former Vice President Joseph Biden and his son, Hunter Biden..." and the third bullet point, "Meet or speak with two people the president named explicitly as his personal envoys on these matters, Mr. Giuliani and Attorney General Barr to whom the president referred multiple times in tandem."

In the transcript that was released on page 4 of the first paragraph into what looks like the third sentence, "President Trump says the former ambassador from United States, the woman was bad news and the people she was dealing with in the Ukraine were bad news. So I just want to let you know that. The other thing, 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," et cetera.

Do you have reason to doubt what the whistleblower has brought forward?

MAGUIRE: Getting back into Michael Atkinson's determination on whether or not was credible or urgent concern, as the D&I, it is not my place to ensure that it is credible. That is the ICIG's job as the inspector. He has determined that it is credible. My only trouble was that in fact it involves someone who is not in the intelligence community or in an organization under which I have authority and responsibility. Outside that,...

CASTRO: But Director Maguire, you agree that it involved intelligence matters, it involved an issue of election interference, it involved an investigation of U.S. persons including a former vice president. If you had knowledge or the CIA had knowledge that a government was going to investigate or drum up an investigation against a former vice president, would that not - that wouldn't qualify as an intelligence matter? Would that qualify as an intelligence matter, yes or no?

MAGUIRE: Well I don't mean to say that's kind of a hypothetical question, Sir.

CASTRO: I don't think it's hypothetical, that's exactly what's in the transcript. That's what he's asking for.

MAGUIRE: What the complaint - the complaint.

CASTRO: But that's what the president is asking the President of the Ukraine to do. He's asking the President of the Ukraine to investigate a former Vice President of the United States. Does that qualify as an intelligence matter that the CIA would want to know?

MAGUIRE: The conversation was by the president to the President of the Ukraine as you know and it is - I am not...

CASTRO: But, Mr. Maguire, I understand that that cannot be -- that cannot be an ultimate shield against transparency. It can't be an ultimate shield against accountability. The president is not above the law. One thing that you haven't told us is if -- if -- if your office or if the inspector general is not able to investigate, then who is able to investigate.

MAGUIRE: Congressman Castro, once again sir; as I mentioned several times so far; although it did not come to the committee, the complaint was referred to the Judicial Department for criminal investigation. This was not swept under the rug.

CASTRO: I have -- I have one more question for you. Why did your office think you should appeal the I.G.'s determination about quote, unquote urgent concern to the DOJ. That has never been done before. It's never been done before.

MAGUIRE: This is unprecedented in that in the past that there has never been a matter that the inspector general has investigated that did not involve a member of the intelligence community or an organization that the director of national ...

CASTRO: One -- one last point I would make with respect to -- you keep saying the president is not part of the intelligence community. I believe he is. The president, you agree, has the ability to declassify any single intelligence document. Do you agree that's true?

MAGUIRE: The president has original classification authority.

CASTRO: How then -- how is that person outside of the intelligence community?

MAGUIRE: It's because he's the president of the United States above the entire Executive Branch.

CASTRO: Thank you.

MAGUIRE: Thank you, Congressman.

SCHIFF: Mr. Ratcliffe.

RATCLIFFE: Thank you, Chairman. Admiral, good to see you.

MAGUIRE: Good to see you again, sir.

RATCLIFFE: You served in the Navy 36 years. You commanded SEAL Team 2 and you retired as Vice Admiral of the Navy, correct? MAGUIRE: That's correct, Congressman.

RATCLIFFE: All right. And despite the fact that after that service you became acting DNI 23 days after the Trump/Zelensky call and four days after the whistleblower made his or her compliant you were subpoenaed before this committee after being publicly accused of committing a crime, correct?

MAGUIRE: Yes, Congressman.

RATCLIFFE: Chairman Schiff wrote a letter on September 13th accusing you of being part of a quote, unlawful cover up. And then the Speaker of the House took it one step further. She went on national T.V. and said not once, but twice that you broke the law, that you committed a crime.

She said the Acting Director of National Intelligence blocked him, meaning the ICIG from disclosing the whistleblower complaint. This is violation of the law. You were publicly accused of committing a crime. You were also falsely accused of committing crime as you have so accurately related, you were required to follow not just an opinion of what the law is but the opinion form the Justice Department.

And 11 page opinion about whether or not you were required by law to report the whistleblower complaint, correct?

MAGUIRE: That's correct, Congressman Ratcliffe.

RATCLIFFE: And that -- and that opinion says the question is whether such a complaint falls within the statutory definition of urgent concern that the law requires the DNI to forward to the intelligence committee. We conclude that it does not. Did I read that accurately?

MAGUIRE: Yes.

RATCLIFFE: I better have, right. That's an opinion not from Bill Barr. That's an opinion from the Department of Justice ethics lawyers. Not political appointees but career officials that serve Republicans and Democrats.

The ethics lawyers at the Department of Justice that determine that you did follow the law. So you were publicly accused, you were also falsely accused and yet here today, I haven't heard anything close to an apology for that. Welcome to the House of Representatives with Democrats in charge.

Let me turn to the matter that we're here for. A lot of talk about this whistleblower complaint. The question is at this point, given what we have, why all the focus on this whistleblower. The best evidence of what President Trump said to President Zelensky is a transcript of what President Trump said to President Zelensky.

Not casting aspersions on the whistleblowers good faith or their intent, but a second hand account of something someone didn't hear isn't as good the best evidence of what was actually said. And to that point, despite good faith, the whistleblower is in fact wrong in numerous respects.

And I know everyone's not going to have time to read the whistleblowers complaint but the whistleblower says that I am deeply concerned, talking about the president, that there was a serious or flagrant problem, abuse, or violation of the law.

The whistleblower then goes on to say I was not a direct witness to the events described. However, I found my colleagues accounts of this to be credible. And then talking about those accounts of which this whistleblower complaint is based on, the whistleblower tells us the officials that I spoke with told me.

And I was told that and I learned from multiple U.S. officials that and White House officials told me that. And I also learned from multiple U.S. officials that. In other words, all of this is second hand information.

None of it is firsthand information. The whistleblower then goes on to cite additional sources besides those secondhand information. Those sources happen to include mainstream media. The sources that the whistleblower basis it's complaints on include the Washington Post, the New York Times, Politico, The Hill, Bloomberg, ABC News and others.

In other words, much like the steel dossier, the allegations in the whistleblowers complaints are based on third hand mainstream media sources rather than firsthand information.

The whistleblower also appears to allege crimes not just against the president but says with regard to this scheme to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 election that quote; the president's personal, Mr. Rudolph Giuliani, is a central figure in this effort and Attorney General Barr appears to be involved as well.

But buried in a footnote a couple of page -- a couple of pages later the whistleblower admits I do not know the extent to which, if at all, Mr. Giuliani is directly coordinating his efforts on the Ukraine with Attorney General Barr.

The Attorney General does know because he issues a statement yesterday saying there was no involvement. My point in all of this is again, the transcript is the best evidence of what we have.

And so that the American people are very clear what that transcript relates is legal communications. The United States is allowed to solicit help from a foreign government in an ongoing criminal investigation, which is exactly what President Trump did in that conversation.

So if the Democrats are intent on impeaching the president for lawful conduct, then be my guest. I yield back.

MAGUIRE: Thank you, Congressman Ratcliffe.

SCHIFF: Mr. Heck. HECK: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Director, thank you for being here, sir. Thank you very much for you service. I want to step back a little bit and kind of put into perspective; I think what's at stake here. Obviously, yesterday the White House released the transcript of that July 25 conversation between President Trump and President Zelensky.

And we now know that this phone call was indeed a part of the whistleblower complaint. Yesterday the Chair at a press conference characterized the president's conversation and that call as a shakedown of the Ukrainian leader.

He was not suggesting that it was a shakedown for either information or money but instead it was a shakedown for help to win a presidential election, which is coming up next year. So, now let's press rewind to May 7, of this year, when FBI Director Christopher Wray testified before the United States Senate that, and I'm quoting now, any public official or member of any campaign should immediately report to the FBI, any conversations with foreign actors about, quote, "influencing or interfering with our election."

And Director Wray is, of course, the top cop in the United States of America. You agree with Director Wray, do you not, sir?

MAGUIRE: Congressman Heck, I do not disagree with Director Wray.

HECK: Is that the same thing is you agree with him sir?

MAGUIRE: Yes.

HECK: OK, thank you. Let me go on, fast forward --

MAGUIRE: It was referred -- it was referred to the FBI.

HECK: Let me fast forward --

MAGUIRE: Yes sir.

HECK: Was it referred to the FBI by the president, who actually engaged in the conversation?

MAGUIRE: The --

HECK: No, it was not. Let me fast forward to June 13, when -- that's five weeks in advance to that, when the Chair of the Federal Elections Commission made the following statement, follow me please, let me make something 100 percent clear to the American public and anyone running for public office, it is illegal for any person to accept, solicit or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with the U.S. election. This is not a novel concept.

Election intervention from foreign governments has been considered unacceptable since the beginnings of our nation. Do you agree with the FEC Chair Weintraub, Mr. Director?

MAGUIRE: I agree that our elections are sacred and we -- any interference from an outside source is -- is just -- not what we want to do.

HECK: And to solicit or accept it is illegal?

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