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Intelligence Community inspector general Michael Atkinson on Thursday declined to provide lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee with details of a controversial whistleblower complaint that allegedly involves a conversation between President Trump and an unknown foreign leader, according to Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.).

"In the absence of that whistleblower law, there is no lawful mechanism for an intelligence community employer, detailee or contractor to raise a complaint about serious misconduct. The whole point of the whistleblower statute is not only to encourage those to report problems, abuses, violations of laws, but also to have a legal mechanism to do so and not to disclose classified information — because there's no other remedy. That whole purpose is being frustrated here because the director of national intelligence has made the unprecedented decision not to share the complaint with Congress."
— Adam Schiff

What we know: On Aug. 12, a whistleblower filed a complaint with Atkinson, who serves as the watchdog for the U.S. intelligence community, that he deemed was "credible and urgent within the definition of the law." The Washington Post reported Wednesday night that the complaint concerned a communication between Trump and a foreign leader in which the president made some kind of "promise."

  • Acting director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire has refused to turn over the complaint to Congress, as is usually required by law. Schiff said Thursday that he does not know whether press reports about the nature of the Trump conversation are accurate, but that the Department of Justice was involved in the decision to withhold the complaint.

White House records show that Trump interacted with the following 5 foreign leaders in the 5 weeks preceding the complaint, though it's not clear if any of them are involved, according to the Post:

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin
  • North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un
  • Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan
  • Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte
  • Qatar Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani

What's next: Schiff said he is consulting with the House general counsel to determine whether to take the Trump administration to court in order to obtain the complaint. Schiff also said he is considering using Congress' "power of the purse" to exert leverage over the DNI.

  • Maguire will testify in open session before the House Intelligence Committee next week under threat of subpoena.

What Trump is tweeting:

"Another Fake News story out there - It never ends! Virtually anytime I speak on the phone to a foreign leader, I understand that there may be many people listening from various U.S. agencies, not to mention those from the other country itself. No problem! Knowing all of this, is anybody dumb enough to believe that I would say something inappropriate with a foreign leader while on such a potentially "heavily populated" call. I would only do what is right anyway, and only do good for the USA!"

The bottom line: The lack of communication between Trump's top intelligence official and the Democratic-led House is the "latest in a series of fights over information" from the White House, per the New York Times. It could be the most significant one yet.

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
28 mins ago - Technology

Microsoft to buy Activision Blizzard

Photo: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Microsoft announced Tuesday it plans to acquire video game giant Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion in cash.

Why it matters: The move comes as Activision Blizzard has faced a wave of accusations of workplace harassment.

1 hour ago - World

Blinken to visit Ukraine as Russia invasion threat looms

Blinken (R) with President Zelensky. Photo: Efrem Lukatsky/Pool via Getty

Secretary of State Antony Tony Blinken will travel to Ukraine on Tuesday as the country faces an ongoing threat of Russian invasion.

Driving the news: Blinken will meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, as well as officials at the U.S. embassy in Kyiv to discuss contingency planning. He'll then travel to Berlin to meet German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and attend a meeting of the "Transatlantic Quad" — France, Germany, the U.K. and U.S.

Updated 1 hour ago - World

At least 3 dead after Tonga volcano eruption and tsunami

A satellite image of the explosive eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano on Saturday. Photo: UNICEF/NOAA

At least three people are confirmed to have died in Tonga following the undersea volcanic eruption that sent tsunami waves toward the island nation and across the Pacific over the weekend, officials said Tuesday.

The big picture: Officials reported major damage along the western coast of the main island of Tongatapu, where the capital, Nuku'alofa, was covered in ash and dust, including on the runway of the airport. Officials in Tonga confirmed three deaths in the country's first official statement since the crisis began.