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Acting Intel Chief Testifies About Whistleblower Complaint. Aired 10:30a ET

Aired September 26, 2019 - 10:30   ET

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


[10:30:00] CARSON: -- such an urgent complaint from the inspector general, you, the Director of National Intelligence quote "shall" end quoted forward it to the Intel Committees within seven days, no ifs, ands or buts.

And even when the IG has found complaints not to be an urgent concern or even credible, your office has consistency and uniformly still transmitted those complaints to the Intelligence Committees, is that right sir?

MAGUIRE: Congressman Carson, in the past, even if they were not a matter of urgent concern or whether they were not credible, they were forwarded.

But in each and every instance prior to this, it involved members of the intelligence community who are serving at organizations underneath the control of the DNI. This one is different because it did not meet those two criteria.

CARSON: Director, does executive privilege (inaudible) your mind or laws that regulate the intelligence community preempt or (inaudible) even the laws that safe guard, the security of America's Democratic elections and her democracy itself, sir?

MAGUIRE: No, Chairman Carson, it does not.

CARSON: Yeah -- no -- no -- not withstanding, director, this unambiguous mandate and the consistent practice of your office that you withheld this urgent complaint from Congress at the direction of the White House and the Justice Department.

You followed their orders instead of the law. And if the inspector general had not brought this complaint to our attention, you and the Trump administration might've gotten away with this unprecedented action.

Sir, you released a statement yesterday affirming your oath to the constitution and your dedication to the rule of law. But I'm having trouble understanding how that statement can be true in light of the facts here. Can you explain that to us, sir?

MAGUIRE: Congressman Carson, a couple of things. The White House did not -- did not direct me to withhold the information, neither did the Office of Legal Counsel. That opinion is unclassified and has been disseminated. The question came down to urgent concern, which is a legal definition, it doesn't mean is it important, is it timely. Urgent concern met the certain criteria that we've discussed several times here, so we did not. And all that did, sir, was then (ph) just take away the seven days. Now, as I said before, just because it was not forwarded to this committee does not mean that it went unanswered.

The IC IG and the Justice Department referred it to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for investigation. So this is nothing (ph) -- and that was working while I was endeavoring to get the executive privilege concerns addressed so that it can then be forwarded. It was not stonewalling, I didn't receive direction from anybody, I was just trying to work through the process and the law the way it is written. I have to comply with the way the law is, not the way some people would like it to be. And if I could do otherwise, it would have been much more convenient for me, Congressman.

CARSON: And lastly, Director, as you sit here today, sir, do you commit to providing every single whistleblower complaint intended for Congress to the intelligence committees as required by the statute, sir?

MAGUIRE: If it's required by the statute, Congressman Carson, yes I will.

CARSON: That's good to know, sir. And -- and I certainly hope so because I think the unprecedented decision to withhold this whistleblower complaint from Congress, I think it raises concerns -- very serious concerns for us and for me and I think that we need to get to the bottom of this. I yield the balance of my time, Chairman. Thank you.

SCHIFF: Thank you, Congressman Carson.

CARSON: Thank you.

SCHIFF: How much time does the gentleman have remaining? 27 (ph)? OK. Well, Director, you were not directed to withhold the complaint, is that your testimony?

MAGUIRE: Yes, that is absolutely true --

SCHIFF: So you exercised your discretion to withhold the complaint from the committee?

MAGUIRE: I did not, sir. What I did was I delayed it because it did not meet the statutorily definition of urgent concern and I was working through --

SCHIFF: And director, you're aware -- you've spent a lot of time focusing on the definition of urgent concern. You're aware that the practice of your office has been that regardless of whether the complaint meets the definition of urgent concern, regardless of whether the Inspector General finds it credible or incredible, the complaint is always given to our committee. You're aware that's the unbroken practice since the establishment of your office and the Inspector General. Are very aware of that?

MAGUIRE: Chairman, every previous whistleblower complaint that was forwarded to the Intelligence Committee involved a member of the intelligence community and an organization under which the director of national intelligence had authority and responsibility.

[10:35:00] SCHIFF: And but you're aware that the past practice has been -- we're talking about urgent concern here -- that whether you or the Inspector General, everybody believes it meets the statutory definition, the past practice has always been to give it to this committee. You're aware of that, right?

MAGUIRE: I am aware that this is unprecedented in this never --

SCHIFF: OK. And -- and --

MAGUIRE: And with that, sir, I agree. This has never happened before. But then again, this is a unique situation.

SCHIFF: But -- but you, Director, made the decision. You made the decision to withhold it from the committee for a month when the White House had made no claim of executive privilege, when the Department of Justice said you don't have to give it to them but you can, you made the decision not to.

MAGUIRE: That's not true, sir. What the Office of Legal Council said, that it does not meet the legal definition of urgent concern.

SCHIFF: So it said you're not required. It didn't say you cannot provide it, it said you're required to, that is, if you don't want to, we're not going to force you, you're not required but it didn't say you can't. Am I right?

MAGUIRE: What -- what it -- it allowed me -- and I just said that in my opening statement, but even so, it was referred to the FBI for investigation and I was endeavoring to get the information to you, Mr. Chairman, but I could not forwarded as a member the executive branch without executive privileges being addressed. And -- and I feel that the White House Counsel was doing the best that they could do in order to get that and it took longer than I would have liked, that's for sure. But that came to a -- a -- a conclusion yesterday with the release of the transcripts and because the transcripts were released that no longer was there a situation of executive privilege and I was then free to send both the inspector general's cover letter and the complaint to you.

At no time was there any intent on my part, ever, sir, to withhold the information from you as the chair, this committee or the Senate Intelligence Committee.

SCHIFF: Well, director, I wish I had the confidence of knowing that, but for this hearing, but for the deadline that we were forced to set with this hearing that we would have been provided that complaint. But I don't know that we would have ever seen that complaint. Dr. Wenstrup. WENSTRUP: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and thank you, Mr. Maguire for being here today. You know, I think it's a shame that we started off this hearing with fictional remarks, the implication of a conversation that took place between a president and a foreign leader, putting words into it that did not exist, they're not in the transcript. And I will contend that those were intentionally not clear and the chairman described it as parody and I don't believe that this is the time or the place for parody when we are trying to seek facts.

Nor do those that were involved with the conversation agree with the parody that the chairman gave us. And unfortunately today, many innocent Americans are going to turn on their TV and the media's only going to show that section of what the chairman had to say. But I'm glad to know that many Americans have seen this movie too many times and they're tired of it. But let me get to some questions, sir, if I can. Let's go to the word credible. Credible does not mean proven true or factual, would that be correct in this situation?

MAGUIRE: I find no fault of your logic, Congressman.

WENSTRUP: OK, so, you know, the interpretation it was credible. But also, was that decision made by the IG before seeing the transcript of the conversation?

MAGUIRE: I believe that the IC IG conducted to his -- best of his ability the investigation. And he found to his ability that based on the evidence and discussing it with the whistleblower that he thought that in fact it was credible.

WENSTRUP: But the IG didn't necessarily have the transcript of the conversation?

MAGUIRE: He did not. No, he did not.

WENSTRUP: OK. OK, that's -- that's my question. So to another point, you know, one of the issues that arose out of the Russia investigation last Congress was a question over the latitude provided to the U.S. president to conduct foreign affairs. In 2017, I asked then-CIA Director Brennan how he viewed statements made by President Obama to Russian President Medvedev regarding having (ph) more flexibility to negotiate after his 2012 election, and President Medvedev replied that he would transmit the information to Vladimir and then Medvedev stood with President Obama. That was in an open hearing.

Director Brennan wouldn't entertain my question and insisted on not answering due to the fact that the conversation was between the heads of government. That's what he said. He further claimed he was avoiding getting involved in political partisan issues. Which brings me to a similar question related to this whistleblower complaint. One, you said this executive privilege is unwaverable, and I -- I think that's kind of consistent with CIA Director Brennan was implying.

[10:40:00] MAGUIRE: Congressman, only the White House and the president can waive executive privilege. The president exerts gradual privilege and only the White House and the president can waive that. WENSTRUP: So Director Brennan gave me the impression then that that was like, that's the rule, that's the laws so I have to go with that. But do you believe the president is entitled to withhold his or her communications from Congress if the conversation is used in a whistle- blower case?

MAGUIRE: I think that the president, when he conducts diplomacy and deals with foreign heads of state, he has every right to be able to have that information be held within the white House and the executive branch. And if -- yesterday, I think the transmission of the call is unprecedented, and it's also -- I think that other future leaders, when they interact with our head of state, might be more cautious in what they say and reduce the interaction that they have with the president because of that release.

WENSTRUP: So we may need to change our process here because I guess if a decision regarding executive privilege -- maybe it should be made prior to submitting the communication to Congress.

MAGUIRE: Well, either that -- I believe that this committee wrote the law. And based on what we're doing today, you know, perhaps it needs to be relooked. I don't know. I leave that to the legislative branch.

WENSTRUP: So also, we may need to change process. The 14 days, that might be kind of tough to adhere to. So I think maybe, you know, this is special circumstance, unprecedented, maybe there should be some leeway in the time frame instead of the narrow 14 days. And I don't know if you know, did you feel or did the I.G. ever say that they felt rushed to making a decision because of the 14-day process?

MAGUIRE: No, congressman. I believe he's a very experienced inspector general. He's used to dealing with the 14-day process. And when you work under a timeline like that, he worked with his staff, and I think endeavored to the extent because he was following the statute as he believed it was written. So I would think any prudent lawyer would like to have more time to be able to collect the facts and do other things, but Michael Atkinson was under the 14-day timeline, and he did the best of his ability to comply with that.

WENSTRUP: Did you feel rushed in any way, sir?

MAGUIRE: I did not.

WENSTRUP: Thank you. I yield back.

MAGUIRE: Thank you, congressman.

SCHIFF: Ms. Speier.

SPEIER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you, Director Maguire, for your extraordinarily long service to our country. At any point during this process, did you personally threaten to resign if the complaint was not provided to the committee?

MAGUIRE: No, congressman, I did not. And I know that that story has appeared quite a bit, and I issued a statement yesterday.

SPEIER: All right, thank you. When you read the complaint, were you shocked at all by what you read?

MAGUIRE: Congresswoman -- excuse me -- as I said, I have a lot of life experience. I joined the Navy...

SPEIER: I understand your record. Could you just answer it?

MAGUIRE: Well, I realized -- I realized full well, full and well, the importance of the allegation, and I also have to tell you, congressman -- congresswoman, when I saw that, I anticipated having to sit in front of some committee, sometime to discuss it.

SPEIER: All right. The complaint refers to what happened after the July 25th conversation between the Ukraine president and the president of the United States. The White House lawyers ordered other staff to move the transcript from its typical repository to a more secure location in order to lockdown -- and that was the term used in the complaint -- all records of the phone call. Did you -- did that reaction to the transcript seem to you like a recognition within the white House that the call was completely improper?

MAGUIRE: Congresswoman, I have no firsthand knowledge of that. All I have is the knowledge that the whistle-blower alleges in his allegation, the whistle-blower complaint. I don't know whether, in fact, that is true or not. My only knowledge and situational awareness of that is from the whistle-blower's letter.

SPEIER: So knowing that the whistle-blower appeared to be credible based on the evaluation by the inspector general and knowing that effort was undertaken by the White House to cover it up, why would you then, as your first action outside of the intelligence community, go directly to the White House to the very entity that was being scrutinized and complained about in the complaint? Why would you go there to ask their advice as to what you should do?

MAGUIRE: Congresswoman, the allegation that is made by the whistle- blower is secondhand information, not known to him or her firsthand.

[10:45:00] SPEIER: Except, Mr. Maguire, it was determined to be credible. There was an investigation done by the inspector general. Let me go on to another issue. President Trump, over the weekend, tweeted, it appears that an American spy in one of our intelligence agencies may have been spying on our own president. Do you believe that the whistle-blower was spying on one of our intelligence agencies or spying on the president?

MAGUIRE: As I said several times so far this morning, I believe that the whistle-blower complied with the law and did everything that they thought he or she thought was responsible under the intelligence community whistle-blower protection act.

SPEIER: But you did not speak out to protect the whistle-blower, did you? MAGUIRE: Congresswoman, I...

SPEIER: Yes or no, sir.

MAGUIRE: I did, yes. I did within my own work force. I thought there was enough stuff that was appearing out in the press that was erroneous, that was absolutely incorrect, and I didn't think that I needed to respond to every single statement that was out there that was incorrect. So what I did is...

SPEIER: All right, thank you.

MAGUIRE: My loyalty is to my work force.

SPEIER: I appreciate that, thank you. The president on Monday said, who is this so-called whistle-blower? Who knows the correct facts? Is he on our country's side? Do you believe the whistle-blower is on our country's side?

MAGUIRE: I believe that the whistle-blower and all employees who come forward in the ICIG to raise concerns of fraud, waste, and abuse are doing what they perceive to be the right thing.

SPEIER: So working on behalf of our country. Are you aware of the fact that whistle-blowers within the federal government have identified waste, fraud, and abuse of over $59 billion that has had the effect of benefiting the taxpayers and keeping our country safe as well?

MAGUIRE: Congresswoman, I'm not familiar with the dollar value, but having been in the government service for nearly four decades, I am very much aware of the value of the program.

SPEIER: Thank you. Let me ask you one final question. Did the president of the United States ask you to find out the identity of the whistle-blower?

MAGUIRE: I can say, although I would not normally discuss my conversations with the president, I can tell you emphatically, no.

SPEIER: Has anyone else within the White House or the Department of Justice asked you?

MAGUIRE: No, congresswoman. No.

SPEIER: Thank you. I yield back.

MAGUIRE: You're welcome, ma'am.

SCHIFF: Mr. Stewart.

STEWART: Mr. Maguire, thank you for being here today. I want you to know the good news is I'm not going to treat you like a child, and I'm going to give you a chance to answer your questions if I ask you something. I want to thank you for your service, and I'd like you to remind me -- you said it earlier -- how many years of service, military service do you have? MAGUIRE: I have 36 years of service in the United States Navy, 34 of those as a Navy S.E.A.L.

STEWART: That's great, 36 years, 34 years as a Navy S.E.A.L. I had a mere 14 years as an Air Force pilot. I proudly wear these Air Force wings. These are actually my father's Air Force wings. He served in the military as well, as did five of his sons. And for someone who hasn't served in the military, I don't think they realize how deeply offensive it is to have your honor and your integrity questioned. Some on this committee have done exactly that.

They even accused you of breaking the law, and I'm going to read just one part of many that I could from the chairman. This raises grave concerns that your office, together with the Department of Justice and possibly the White House, have engaged in an unlawful effort to protect the president. And there's others that I could read. As I believe they've sought to destroy your character. So I'm going to give you the opportunity to answer very clearly. Are you motivated by politics in your work or professional behavior?

MAGUIRE: Excuse me, sir?

STEWART: Are you motivated by politics in your work or your professional behavior?

MAGUIRE: No, congressman. Not at all.

STEWART: I'm just going to leave it there.

MAGUIRE: I am not. I am not political. I am not partisan. And I did not look to be sitting here as the acting director of National Intelligence. I thought that there were perhaps other people who would be best and more qualified to do that, but the president asked me to do this, and it was my honor to step up, and forever how long I'm doing it, to lead and support the intelligence community.

STEWART: Okay, thank you. Do you believe you have followed the laws and policies in the way you've handled this complaint?

MAGUIRE: I do. I know I do.

STEWART: Have you in any way sought to protect the president or anyone else from any wrongdoing?

MAGUIRE: I have not. What I have done is endeavored to follow the law.

STEWART: Thank you. Do you believe you had a legal responsibility to follow the guidance of the Office of Legal Counsel?

MAGUIRE: The opinion of the office of legal counsel is binding on the executive branch.

[10:50:00] STEWART: Thank you. Now, there's been a big deal made about the fact that this is the first whistle-blower complaint that has been made that this is the first whistle-blower complaint withheld from Congress but it's also true, isn't it, that it's the first whistle- blower complaint that potentially falls under executive privilege and it's the first time that it included information outside of the authority of the DNI, is that true?

MAGUIRE: To the best of my knowledge, congressman, that is correct.

STEWART: I will say to my colleague sitting here, you're nuts if you think you're going to convince the American people that your cause is just by attacking this man and by impugning his character when it's clear he felt there's a discrepancy, a potential deficiency in the law, he was trying to do the right thing. He felt compelled by the law to do exactly what he did. Yet the entire tone here is that somehow you're a political stooge who has done nothing but try to protect the president, and I just think that's nuts.

And anyone watching this hearing is surely going to walk away with the clear impression that you are a man of integrity who did what you felt was right regardless of the questions and the innuendo cast by some of my colleagues sitting here today. I'd like one more thing before I yield my time. I think we can agree that leaks are unlawful and that leaks are damaging, and for heaven's sakes we've seen plenty of that over the past three years and there's a long list of leaks that have had clear implications for our national security, meaningful implications for our national security. I want to know, do you know who is feeding the press information about this case, and have you made any referrals to the Department of Justice for unlawful disclosures?

MAGUIRE: Yes, sir.

STEWART: Do you know who is feeding information about this case?

MAGUIRE: No.

STEWART: Do you think it would be appropriate to make a referral to Department of Justice to try to determine that?

MAGUIRE: I believe that anybody who witnesses or sees any wrong doing should refer any wrong doing or complaint to the Department of Justice for investigation.

STEWART: Including investigation about leaks?

MAGUIRE: That is correct.

STEWART: Of classified information?

MAGUIRE: Yes, congressman, any wrong doing.

STEWART: I don't know what time it is because our clock isn't working. I suppose my time is up. But I would conclude by emphasizing one again, good luck convincing the American people this is a dishonorable man sitting here. Good luck convincing the American people that he has done anything other than what he thinks is right. If you think it scores political points with your friends who have wanted to impeach this president from the day he was elected, then keep going down that road. MAGUIRE: Thank you, congressman.

SCHIFF: I would only say, director, no one has accused you of being a political stooge or dishonorable. No one has said so, no one has suggested that.

STEWART: You've accused him of breaking the law, Mr. Chairman.

SCHIFF: But it is -- but it is -- but it is certainly our strong view, and we hope it would be shared by the minority, when the Congress says that something shall be done, it shall be done, and when that involves the wrong doing of the president. It is not an exemption to the requirement of the statue and the fact that the whistle-blower has been left twisting in the wind for weeks, has attacked by the president should concern all of us, Democrats and Republicans, that this was allowed to come to be that allegations this serious were withheld from this committee. That should concern all of us. No one is suggesting that there is a dishonor here, but nonetheless, we are going to insist that the law be followed.

QUIGLEY: Mr. Chairman, will yield?

SCHIFF: Mr. Quigley.

QUIGLEY: Thank you, sir, for your service and being here. As you know those in public life who deal with other countries, ambassadors, those in the intelligence field, they're vetted, go for approval before the Senate, they have to get clearance, you understand the pole policy reasons for that, correct?

MAGUIRE: Yes, sir.

QUIGLEY: Do you have any problem with civilians without approval, without vetting, without clearance, taking on those roles?

MAGUIRE: Yes, I do, congressman.

QUIGLEY: Why would you have those concerns?

MAGUIRE: Well, in order to be -- in order to be able to handle sensitive information, whether it be diplomatic or certainly intelligence information, one must be vetted. This is the important part of protecting national security. And in order -- we just can't bring people in and automatically wave a magic wand to put security clearance on them, it's a matter of vetting. For me to come into government the FBI went back for 15 years in my background, examined all of my financial records to make sure that I was, in fact, worthy of having an intelligence clearance. And we do the same thing with the intelligence community.

[10:55:00] Everybody who is subject or everybody who is privileged to have access to intelligence information is a sacred trust. The American people expect us to keep them safe as I said earlier. In order to do that we need to do that, we need ensure that any person who has access to this sensitive information of the United States has been thoroughly vetted to ensure that they are able to handle that information.

QUIGLEY: It's not just the intel issues, it's the issues of national policy that people have an official role they carry out on behalf of the -- the United States and we know what their role is, correct?

MAGUIRE: Yes congressman.

QUIGLEY: What is your understanding right now of what Mr. Giuliani's role is?

MAGUIRE: Mr. Congressman -- Congressman Quigley, I respectfully just referred to the White House to a comment on the president's personal lawyer.

QUIGLEY: OK. So, so far what I've declaimed is you see that he's his personal lawyer. We read in the complaint, we read in this modified transcript, he's mentioned five times. Your reaction to the fact that this civilian, without any of this vetting, has played this role?

MAGUIRE: No sir. All I'm saying is that, I know what the allegations are. I'm not saying that the allegations are true and that's where the Committee --

QUIGLEY: Well, I don't think there's any question the credibility of the complaint in -- that's in the transcript. The president mentions and speaks highly of Mr. Giuliani, a highly respected man, he as the Mayor of New York, a (inaudible). I would like him to call you. I will ask him to call you, along with the Attorney General. Your action of a civilian dealing with these (ph)?

In the complaint it talks about our national security. That -- the Inspector General talks about this as the highest responsibility among those that the DNI has, and obviously Mr. Giuliani is playing this role. To your knowledge, does he have security clearance?

MAGUIRE: I don't know. Congressman Quigley, I'm neither or unaware whether or not Mr. Giuliani has a security clearance.

QUIGLEY: Before this all happened, were you aware of his role or understanding what his role was, doing what you do?

MAGUIRE: Congressman Quigley, my only knowledge of what Mr. Giuliani does, I have to be honest with you, I get from TV and from the news media. I am not aware of what he does, in fact, for the president.

QUIGLEY: Are you aware of his -- any communication by Mr. Giuliani and your office, about how he should proceed with this role, given the classified nature, the national security implications that are in the complaint, that are in the transcript, in the role that he is playing?

MAGUIRE: Well, I -- I have read the transcripts just as you have, so my knowledge of his activity in there is just limited to the conversation that the president had with the President of Ukraine.

QUIGLEY: So, we respect your role, and while we have difference of opinion, we continue to respect your integrity and your honor, but we have all this vast amount of this experience you have and we need to understand how it plays -- juxtaposition with the complaint. I'm reading, an OMB official informed departments and agencies that the president, earlier that month, had issued instructions to suspend all U.S. security assistance to Ukraine. Your reaction to that?

MAGUIRE: Congressman Quigley, I think that anything that has to do with the president's lawyer in these matters should be referred to the White House and the president for that.

QUIGLEY: Well no, I'm just reading -- I'm just reading the complaint.

MAGUIRE: I lead -- I lead and I support the Intelligence Community and the 17 different departments and agencies underneath my leadership. I do not lead the president and I have no authority or responsibility over the White House.

QUIGLEY: But, you were aware, with all of your experience, at the fact that we have this relationship with Ukraine, that they are dependent upon us, and that this complaint doesn't concern you. You can't say that publicly that it concerns you?

MAGUIRE: There's a lot of things that concern me, I'm the Director of National Intelligence. And this one here, though, I just have to defer back to the conversation that the president had is his conversation. How the President of the United States wants to conduct diplomacy is his business and I -- is not whether or not I approve it or disapprove of it, that is the president's business on how he wants to conduct that, sir.

QUIGLEY: The issue is whether it commits a crime and that bothers you?

SCHIFF: The time of the gentleman has expired. Director, you may complete your answer if you wish.

MAGUIRE: Excuse me, sir?

SCHIFF: If you wanted to respond, you may.

MAGUIRE: No, I'm fine. Thank you Chairman.

SCHIFF: Ms. Stefanik.

STEFANIK: Thank you Mr. Maguire. Thank you for being here. We appreciate your life of public service. 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

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