WASHINGTON D.C. (WWNY) - During a morning of high drama in Washington, north country Congresswoman Elise Stefanik raised questions Thursday about the thoroughness of the investigation into complaints made by an intelligence community whistleblower.
Those complaints touched off a firestorm in the nation’s capitol, prompting Democrats to take early steps toward impeaching President Trump. The intelligence community whistleblower has raised the question of whether President Trump tried to pressure the president of a foreign country, Ukraine, into investigating one of Trump’s political rivals, former Vice President Joe Biden.
Thursday morning, the acting Director of National Intelligence, Joseph Maguire, appeared before the intelligence committee of the House of Representatives, of which Stefanik is a member.
She quickly raised the issue with Maguire of what the whistleblower knew - or didn’t know.
Referring to the whistleblower’s complaint, she said “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.”
“Did the IG (Inspector General) fully investigate the allegations into this complaint?"
Maguire responded, " I believe that the intelligence community inspector general did a thorough investigation with the 14-day time frame that he had. And under that time frame to the best of his ability, he made the determination that it was both credible and urgent. I have no reason to doubt Michael Atkinson (the Inspector General) did anything but his job."
Stefanik tried again.
“There were many references to White House officials. Do you know if the IG spoke with those White House officials, do you know if he investigated, again, the truthfulness of these allegations? Or was it a preliminary investigation?” she said.
McGuire said he didn’t know who Atkinson spoke with, other than the whistleblower.
Like so many things involving President Trump, the dispute over what happened in this case - and whether President Trump did wrong - is bitterly partisan. North Country Public Radio reported Thursday that Stefanik is using the issue to raise funds for her re-election campaign next year.
NCPR reported Stefanik sent an email to potential donors, asking them to help her “stand up for President Trump and fight against these partisan attacks.”
Stefanik’s probable opponent in the 2020 race for congress, Tedra Cobb, criticized the fund-raising email. In a statement, Cobb said Stefanik is "clearly more interested in advancing her own political career and protecting her party than in finding the truth.”
Stefanik opposes the impeachment of President Trump. Cobb favors the “impeachment inquiry" called for by Speaker Nancy Pelosi earlier this week. An impeachment inquiry is an investigation into whether the president should or should not be impeached. Cobb has not taken a position on whether President Trump should be impeached.
McGuire was expected to speak to the intelligence committee of the U.S. Senate Thursday afternoon.
FULL TRANSCRIPT OF STEFANIK-MCGUIRE EXCHANGE
Stefanik: Thank you Mr. McGuire, 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 IG (Inspector General) to the DNI, (Director of National Intelligence) were there any conversations that you had with the IG prior to August 26 related to this matter?
McGuire: Congresswoman, there’s been a lot that’s happened in the last several weeks. As far as the timeline is concerned, I’d like to take that and get back to you and give you a full chronology, if I may, on the full timeline of events.
Stefanik: That will be very helpful to this committee in terms of whether 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 public to read - and let me preface this by saying I greatly appreciate your statement that you believe the whistle blower is acting in good faith. I think that’s very important for the American people 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. I think the American public will have questions, in particular, about that line.
So my question to you is, for the record, did the IG fully investigate the allegations into this complaint? At this time, has the IG fully investigated the allegations into this complaint?
McGuire: As I said earlier congresswoman, I believe that the intelligence community inspector general did a thorough investigation with the 14 day time frame that he had. And under that time frame to the best of his ability, he made the determination that it was both credible and urgent. I have no reason to doubt 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 IG spoke with those White House officials, do you know if he investigated, again, the truthfulness of these allegations? Or was it a preliminary investigation?
McGuire: Congresswoman, I’d have to defer to the IG to respond to you on that, but although I do not know the identity of the whistle blower, I do know that Michael Atkinson had in fact discussed this with the whistle blower 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 in this matter.
Stefanik: So as of today, the only individual we know the IG spoke with is the complainant, is the author, the whistle blower?
McGuire: Congresswoman, what I’m saying is I’m unaware of who else Michael Atkinson may have spoken to. I’m just not familiar 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 gonna 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, that we have questions answered for individuals who do have direct knowledge. And with that I yield back.