US National Intelligence Chief Testifies in Congress, Addressing Trump-Zelensky Phone Call - Video
16:12 26.09.2019(updated 20:25 26.09.2019)
An anonymous complaint which concerned Trump's negotiations with Zelensky filed back in August, caused uproar amid the American lawmakers, as the Democratic Party launched an impeachment against the US president, claiming he violated the law.
Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire is testifying publicly to the House Intelligence Committee on the whistleblower complaint filed about a 25th July phone conversation between US President Donald Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymir Zelensky.
The committee has previously released a redacted version of the document, which Trump called a part of witch hunt against him and the Republican party ahead of 2020 elections.
The whistleblower alleges the administration locked down other Trump transcripts in a more secretive computer system for political reasons - the complaint describes how the transcript of the Trump-Zelensky call was moved to a computer system managed by the National Security Council Directorate for Intelligence Programs, in a partially redacted appendix attached to his complaint.
This move was concerning to some officials, who internally expressed concerns that this was an "abuse of the system".
"According to White House officials I spoke with, this wasn't the first time under this Administration a Presidential transcript was placed into this codeword-level system solely for the purpose of protecting politically sensitive -rather than national security-sensitive - information," he alleges.
The whistleblower does not provide further details of these allegations.
House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff opened proceedings by calling the call transcript the "most graphic evidence yet" that the US President has "betrayed his oath of office, betrayed his oath to defend our national security and betrayed his oath to defend our constitution," he said.
In response, Republican Devin Nunes, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, accused Democrats of launching an "information warfare operation" against Trump.
"I want to congratulate the Democrats on the rollout of their latest information warfare operation against the President and their extraordinary ability to once again enlist the mainstream media in their campaign," he said in his opening statements.
He went on to suggest the transcript "debunked" accusations of presidential wrongdoing, and likened the document to the 'Trump-Russia' dossier compiled by former MI6 operative Christopher Steele, stating the call controversy was just the latest iteration of 'RussiaGate'.
"The complaint relied on hearsay evidence provided by the whistleblower. The inspector general did not know the contents of the phone call at issue [and] found the whistleblower displayed arguable political bias against Trump. The Department of Justice investigated the complaint and determined no action was warranted. Once again, this supposed scandal ends up being nothing like what we were told. The Democrats' determination to undo Trump's election win was "unhinged" and the party should focus on more serious issues - although judging by today's charade, the chances of that happening anytime soon are zero," Nunes fulminated.
Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire was then sworn in for his testimony. He began by saying he was neither partisan nor political, and was determined to protect the US consitution.
"I believe in a life of service and I'm honoured to be a public servant. I served under eight presidents while I was in uniform. I've taken the oath to the constitution 11 times. The first time when I was sworn into the United States Navy in 1974 and nine times during my subsequent promotions in the United States Navy. The oath is sacred. It's a foundation of our Constitution. The oath means not only that I swear true faith and allegiance to that sacred document, but more importantly I view it as a covenant I have with my workforce that I lead and every American that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of my office," he said.
He expressed support for the whistleblower but said that as the complaint centred around a phone call between Trump and a foreign leader – "typically subject to executive privilege" - he was unable to share the details of the complaint with this committee.
Nonetheless, Maguire said he believed both the whistleblower who filed the complaint against President Trump and the inspector general who handled it "acted in good faith", and he had "every reason to believe that they have done everything by the book and followed the law". He added that he knew the complaint was a "serious matter" as soon as he read it.
In response, Nunes said he felt sympathy for Maguire because his words would be "used and spun" by the media in attendance. As a result, he sought to clarify whether or not the Acting Director had assessed the "veracity or truthfulness of this complaint" - Maguire responded in the negative. Nunes went on to warn the acting spy chief about his testimony, telling him to "be careful" about he says as "they're going to use these words against you".
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