Intelligence official refused to explain whistleblower rule changes to House committee

by WorldTribune Staff, October 8, 2019

Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG) Michael Atkinson has acknowledged that his office in September changed the rules for whistleblower complaints to eliminate a requirement that whistleblowers provide first-hand evidence of their allegations.

But, in testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on Oct. 4, Atkinson refused to explain why the rules were changed and why the change was backdated to August.

Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson

The Trump-Ukraine whistleblower filed his complaint on Aug. 12. The complaint was based entirely on second-hand information.

Atkinson told the committee that the changes to the whistleblower complaint form were made in September, but the new forms and guidance, which were not uploaded to the ICIG’s website until Sept. 24, state that they were changed in August.

“Despite having a full week to come up with explanations for his office’s decisions to secretly change its forms to eliminate the requirement for first-hand evidence and to backdate those changes to August, Atkinson refused to provide any explanation to lawmakers baffled by his behavior,” Sean Davis wrote for The Federalist on Oct. 7.

Atkinson had previously stated in a press release that the whistleblower rules changes were made “in response to recent press inquiries regarding” the anti-Trump complaint. But Congress was not even notified of the complaint until the second week of September and the press picked up on it soon after.

Lawmakers highlighted the discrepancy during Atkinson’s appearance before the Intel Committee on Oct. 4, asking: “How could the forms have been changed back in August if they were changed in response to press inquiries that could not have been made until mid-September at the earliest?”

Three House Republican lawmakers wrote in a letter to Atkinson on Sept. 30: “[T]he timing of the removal of the first-hand information requirement raises questions about potential connections to this whistleblower’s complaint. This timing, along with numerous apparent leaks of classified information about the contents of this complaint, also raise questions about potential criminality in the handling of these matters.”

Rep. Devin Nunes of California, the top Republican on Intel Committee, suggested the secret changes to eliminate the requirement for first-hand information were intentionally made to accommodate the anti-Trump complainant, who offered no first-hand evidence of wrongdoing by the president.

“This guideline, they changed it because of this whistleblower,” Nunes told Fox News. “[Atkinson] admits it in his own press release.”

Atkinson also admitted in his Oct. 4 testimony that the whistleblower had lied on his complaint form by concealing his previous secret interactions with House Democratic staff prior to submitting the complaint.

“Atkinson never even bothered investigating potential coordination between the complainant, whom DOJ said showed evidence of partisan political bias, and House Democrats prior to the filing of the anti-Trump complaint,” Davis wrote for The Federalist.

Atkinson also was unable to explain an 18-day gap between the July 25 call and the Aug. 12 complaint — or when the whistleblower contacted a key Democrat’s staff, according to sources cited in a Fox News report.

The advance contact with Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff’s staff before filing the complaint has put the spotlight on Schiff.

The Democrat previously said “we have not spoken directly to the whistleblower,” but his office later revised the claim, saying that Schiff himself “does not know the identity of the whistleblower, and has not met with or spoken with the whistleblower or their counsel.”

“Sources familiar with Atkinson’s closed-door, transcribed interview Friday with members of the House Intelligence Committee also noted that Atkinson said the whistleblower did not disclose the contact – during that 18-day window – with Schiff’s office,” Fox News reported. “Sources said Atkinson testified that the whistleblower, in filing the complaint, left “blank” a section in which he or she could have disclosed that congressional contact.”

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