Trump Phone Call Triggered Whistleblower Complaint

A mysterious conversation with a foreign leader is at the center of a controversy between the intelligence community and Congress.

The Washington Post‘s headline, “Trump’s communications with foreign leader are part of whistleblower complaint that spurred standoff between spy chief and Congress, former officials say,” is long. The story that follows, alas, is short on answers.

The whistleblower complaint that has triggered a tense showdown between the U.S. intelligence community and Congress involves President Trump’s communications with a foreign leader, according to two former U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

Trump’s interaction with the foreign leader included a “promise” that was regarded as so troubling that it prompted an official in the U.S. intelligence community to file a formal whistleblower complaint with the inspector general for the intelligence community, said the former officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

It was not immediately clear which foreign leader Trump was speaking with or what he pledged to deliver, but his direct involvement in the matter has not been previously disclosed. It raises new questions about the president’s handling of sensitive information and may further strain his relationship with U.S. spy agencies. One former official said the communication was a phone call.

The White House declined to comment. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence and a lawyer representing the whistleblower declined to comment.

Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson determined that the complaint was credible and troubling enough to be considered a matter of “urgent concern,” a legal threshold that ordinarily requires notification of congressional oversight committees.

The thing is, Trump is the President of the United States. As such, he’s the commander-in-chief of US armed forces and the ultimate classifying authority for all US intelligence agencies. While it may be “troubling,” he can disclose any information that he’s received from them at his sole discretion.

Similarly, he’s the nation’s chief diplomat. He’s allowed to talk to any foreign leader he wants. And he’d have to promise something extraordinary, indeed, to violate the law.

Furthermore, he’s entitled to an inordinate amount of deference from the intelligence community and other federal agencies before notification of congressional oversight committees. He and his team have, in my judgment, abused Executive privilege repeatedly. But it’s actually still a thing.

So, what happened that has triggered “urgent concern”? The report doesn’t say.

The complaint was filed with Atkinson’s office on Aug. 12, a date on which Trump was at his golf resort in New Jersey. White House records indicate that Trump had had conversations or interactions with at least five foreign leaders in the preceding five weeks.

Among them was a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin that the White House initiated on July 31. Trump also received at least two letters from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during the summer, describing them as “beautiful” messages. In June, Trump said publicly that he was opposed to certain CIA spying operations against North Korea. Referring to a Wall Street Journal report that the agency had recruited Kim’s half-brother, Trump said, “I would tell him that would not happen under my auspices.”

There were other conversations, but Putin and Kim are obviously the leaders with whom sharing of sensitive information or making outrageous promises would seem to have the most potential for damage. If, to engage in wild speculation, Trump handed over Top Secret information in exchange for Russian interference in the 2020 election, for example, Congress should certainly know about it.

We’ll see how the standoff goes. The Inspector General is scheduled to testify before Congress today on the matter. Will he reveal what he knows in direct violation of the orders of the Acting Director of National Intelligence?

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Congress, Intelligence, North Korea, Russia, U.S. Constitution, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Mikey says:

    Did you miss the parts where once again this administration is wiping its ass with all law and principle? The DNI is required by law to forward this to Congress, but–in coordination with Barr’s DoJ, which has no role but which the acting DNI went to because everyone knows Barr is basically Trump’s consigliere at this point–he came up with some transparent bullshit to claim he can’t comply.

    This is blatant and disturbing corruption even by this administration’s abysmal standard. You can’t just wave it away with “well he’s the President and he can say whatever to whoever.”

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  2. James Joyner says:

    @Mikey: Given what the administration has done thus far, I’m inclined to agree. But it’s complicated.

    In a normal world, we would assume the AG and DNI had loyalty to the nation and its Constitution over and above to the President. I have no confidence that’s the case here. But Executive privilege is still a thing. Unless the President broke the law, his private conversations—listened in on by the IC—shouldn’t be subject to leaking to Congress just because some random yahoo didn’t like what he said. That can’t be allowed to be precedent.

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  3. Mikey says:

    @James Joyner: That’s correct and it’s why the individual didn’t leak, he used proper procedures. But the DNI violated the law by squashing the complaint.

    And any official high enough to have been present during the call isn’t a random yahoo. We’re talking NSC level, possibly.

    Finally, the ICIG determined the complaint was credible and serious. He’s the yahoo filter.

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  4. Mu says:

    With the powers assigned to the presidency, can a president even commit treason?

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  5. CSK says:

    It wouldn’t be the first time Trump has disclosed/mishandled classified info–if that’s what he did here. Recall May 2017, when he spilled it to Russian government representatives, which created great agitation for Israel and other allies. Didn’t an agent in Russia have to be extracted as a result?

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  6. SC_Birdflyte says:

    James, I must have missed the provision in the Constitution which grants the President an “Executive Privilege.” It may be a defensible posture, but I don’t think it can be defended on constitutional grounds.

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  7. Jon says:

    Unless the President broke the law, his private conversations—listened in on by the IC—shouldn’t be subject to leaking to Congress just because some random yahoo didn’t like what he said. That can’t be allowed to be precedent.

    This feels like an oblique argument against whistleblowers in general. To Mikey’s point, the whistleblower saw/heard something concerning and brought it to the IG’s attention precisely so the IG could make a determination. They didn’t leak to congress, or the press. The IG did, after the DOJ stepped in and began running interference.

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  8. Jen says:

    @James Joyner:

    shouldn’t be subject to leaking to Congress just because some random yahoo didn’t like what he said

    This is incredibly dismissive to the professionals within our intelligence community, who know full well what executive privilege is, and what it entails.

    The only “yahoo” in this scenario as far as I can see is our president, who doesn’t have the intellectual capacity, diplomatic fluency, or temperament to faithfully execute his duties.

    He must have committed to something outrageous for someone in the intel community to take this step.

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  9. Teve says:

    Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson determined that the complaint was credible and troubling enough to be considered a matter of “urgent concern,” a legal threshold that ordinarily requires notification of congressional oversight committees.

    yeesh.

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  10. mattbernius says:

    @CSK:

    Didn’t an agent in Russia have to be extracted as a result?

    CNN’s initial reporting suggested that was the case, but that’s been called into question by other reports and denied by the CIA:
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/09/10/did-trumps-misconduct-help-trigger-risky-russian-spy-extraction-media-outlets-disagree/

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  11. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    As reported this was not disclosing classified information, which the POTUS can do.
    It was about a promise made; a promise that so troubled the Intelligence Officer that he/she reported it, and the IG concured. I repeat that the IG, an independent entity, made the determination that this was serious enough to be brought before Congress.
    The report, by law, must be delivered to Oversight Committees.
    The DNI and the DOJ are participating in an illegal cover-up.
    Of course the feckless Democrats will not be able to hold anyone to account for this, because they are unable to hold anyone to account for anything.

    But here on OTB James is defending Trump, which means he is assuming that Trump was acting in the best interest of the United States when he made this promise. What is the basis for such an assumption? To date Donald J. Trump has only acted in his own best interests.

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  12. Teve says:

    Jim Sciutto
    @jimsciutto
    ·
    1h
    Fit the whistleblower’s complaint into a disturbing pattern with Trump:

    – shared intel w/Russian officials in Oval (May 2017)
    – confiscated notes from Putin mtg in Hamburg (July 2017)
    – sided w/Putin over IC in Helsinki (July 2018)
    – vowed not to spy on North Korea (June 2019)

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  13. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    There’s been conjecture that this “promise” happened in a phone call with Putin when Trump ostensibly called to help with the Siberian wildfires.
    WTF…did Trump promise to help Putin rake the forest???
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2018/11/18/trump-suggests-californians-can-rake-their-forests-prevent-wildfires-he-is-wrong/

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  14. CSK says:

    @mattbernius: Thanks, but regardless of that, Trump still pulled a breathtakingly stupid stunt that caused a lot of unnecessary turmoil. I recall reading about it and being aghast.

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  15. CSK says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: No, he offered to urinate on the flames.

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  16. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Joyner:

    Unless the President broke the law, his private conversations—listened in on by the IC—shouldn’t be subject to leaking to Congress just because some random yahoo didn’t like what he said. That can’t be allowed to be precedent.

    Way to distort the facts James. The whistleblower is most emphatically NOT leaking anything to congress. He is following the law. The ICIG is also. The acting DNI is not.

    He says the criminal cartel presently holding our country hostage has asserted executive privilege, which they may be able to do here. But the law does not make that exception. IIRC both Clinton and Obama have asserted some form of it in regards to the law but neither made it a blanket get out of jail free card.

    Lawfare explains it very well.

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  17. michael reynolds says:

    You blew this, @James. The law is clear. Trump is breaking the law to cover up his ongoing betrayal of the country he’s supposed to lead. And you’re hand-waving it away.

    Just because it seems bizarre and incredible that the president of the United States is a traitor, doesn’t mean it’s not true.

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  18. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: To clarify:

    Both Clinton and Obama have asserted some form of it in regards to the law in signing statements when the laws were enacted, but neither made it a blanket get out of jail free card.

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  19. gVOR08 says:

    @Mu: Going back to old discussions here, legally in the US treason is defined by the Constitution as something occurring in time of war. No one can commit treason unless we are legally at war. As we no longer declare wars, I’m not sure anyone can ever commit treason in a legal sense. In a vernacular sense Trump has already committed treason, several examples being listed in comments above. And there ain’t jack we can do about it as long as Barr and McConnell say no.

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  20. Jen says:

    @Teve: Hmmm.

    Trump has spoken a number of times about how he doesn’t like spying. Complete and total speculation–my guess is that this is something along those lines, but a specific ask that would undercut intel capabilities (and honestly Trump might not have even understood what he was committing to, he really just does NOT get it when it comes to intel gathering).

    That would be enough to scare a senior intel official, if it was substantive enough to undermine long-established lines of intel collection.

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  21. Chip Daniels says:

    The Constitution actually has a provision to handle this.
    But it requires Congress to impeach.
    Which in turn requires the public to support them.

    Then only reason I belabor the obvious point is that a lot of the punditry concerning impeachment is couched in the language of spectacle, where the citizens are detached audience members.

    For example, the whole theory that impeachment would be divisive and pose a political risk.

    Well of course it does. Anytime the citizenry is forced to actually be sovereign and defend the republic is divisive and risky, by definition.

    As I see it, we are seeing the frog in gradually warming water, where the ever more bold and audacious corruption and destruction of the rule of law is being waved away or excused by increasingly contrived rationales.

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  22. Fortunato says:

    Overlooked in the wide array of possible despots that Trump could have coddled in his phone call, is another Trump bff, Filipino strongman president (and mass murderer) Rodrigo Duterte:
    From Quartz, May 1, 2017 –

    Duterte’s invitation comes as the Trump Organization is on the brink of opening a new $150 million, 57-story skyscraper in Manila, where one-bedroom apartments start at $450,000, as Quartz has previously reported. The Trump Organization has partnered with Century Properties on the project, a local firm run by developer Jose E.B. Antonio. Antonio was named a special government trade representative to the US just days before the US election in November.

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  23. James Joyner says:

    @Mikey: I agree that ICIG is a legitimate yahoo filter. And it’s possible that he believes the President did something sufficiently dangerous to national security that warranted warning Congress. If so, he should absolutely do that. Absent more information, though, I’m prepared to believe that the DNI and OLC made the right call in declaring that this was a genuine instance where Executive privilege applies.

    @CSK: That’s my understanding. I think it’s awful. And within the discretion of the President. It’s why I thought Trump shouldn’t have been trusted with the powers of the office and why I think he should be removed pursuant to the next election.

    @SC_Birdflyte: Executive privilege grows out of the inherent duties of the office and has been upheld as a valid doctrine by the courts for a very long time. The bottom line is that, to do the job, the President needs to be able to have private conversations with his people without them being subject to Congressional second-guessing. That Trump isn’t worthy of the office doesn’t mean he doesn’t enjoy the privilege. But privilege isn’t absolute, either. If Trump did something illegal, he’s not covered.

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: I seldom defend Trump or presume he’s acting in good faith. I’m not doing either here. I’m questioning the logic behind a story and trying to square it with the balance of power between the Executive and Legislative branches of government.

    @michael reynolds: I think I made clear in the OP that, if Trump did something illegal, Congress ought be informed. Simply releasing classified information, which is his right, wouldn’t qualify. Making a promise? Maybe. But what promise?

    I read the Lawfare piece, cited above by @OzarkHillbilly, differently. The update, in particular, (which I hadn’t read when posting this morning) seems to comport with my understanding. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama both asserted Executive privilege on these matters. But, of course, neither of them were themselves target of an IG complaint.

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  24. @James:

    And he’d have to promise something extraordinary, indeed, to violate the law.

    Even if we stipulate to that standard, the problem remains that that is not that hard to conceive of.

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  25. Barry says:

    @James Joyner: “Absent more information, though, I’m prepared to believe that the DNI and OLC made the right call in declaring that this was a genuine instance where Executive privilege applies.”

    We have more information – the record of this administration.

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  26. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Joyner:

    I’m prepared to believe that the DNI and OLC made the right call in declaring that this was a genuine instance where Executive privilege applies.
    ………………..
    But privilege isn’t absolute, either. If Trump did something illegal, he’s not covered.

    These 2 statements gave me whiplash, James. What has ever given you the confidence that an OLC operating under Barr wouldn’t run cover for trump? And I have no faith in the acting DNI.

    I’m questioning the logic behind a story and trying to square it with the balance of power between the Executive and Legislative branches of government.

    What balance of power? What the past year has shown if anything is that as of right now this admin can do anything it wants because *congress* can’t do a damn thing to stop him.

    **mayhap I should say the House can’t because the Senate won’t, but even if both were in DEM hands I wonder how much the trump admin would just ignore them anyway

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  27. gVOR08 says:

    With a quick search I’m unable to find out much about the IG, Michael Atkinson. He’s a lawyer and 15+ year DOJ official, beyond that I failed to find even a birth date. The one photo doesn’t look like he’s anywhere near retirement age, assuming it’s anywhere near current. My fear is that he’s another dedicated, upright public servant. In other words, my fear is that he’s like Comey and Mueller and his primary loyalty is to the institution and his career and he’ll follow the rules right through the destruction of democracy. Unless he has some loyalty to truth and some creativity, as long as the DNI and AG stonewall we’ll never find out what’s going on.

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  28. Kathy says:

    To quote one of Asimov’s best short stories, “The Last question”: Insufficient Data for Meaningful Answer.

    Were it not for the Cheeto propensity to cover up everything he doesn’t feel like bragging about, this wouldn’t even be a story.

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  29. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @James Joyner:

    I’m prepared to believe that the DNI and OLC made the right call in declaring that this was a genuine instance where Executive privilege applies.

    ROTFLMAO.

    I’m questioning the logic behind a story and trying to square it with the balance of power between the Executive and Legislative branches of government.

    First…it’s Trump, so logic does not apply. This morning he has tweeted out that he didn’t do anything wrong. So LOGIC would say that the DNI and OLC has nothing to hide from Oversight.
    Second…There is no balance of power. None.

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  30. gVOR08 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: True that it’s not hard to conceive of Trump making a promise to a foreign leader that is clearly illegal and treasonous (in the vernacular sense). But if the truth ever comes out, Trump has an ironclad defense. He’ll simply say he was lying. Who could doubt it?

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  31. Blue Galangal says:

    Greg Olear has an interesting timeline he’s compiled.

    https://twitter.com/gregolear/status/1174633350075691009?s=20

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  32. Jen says:

    Part of the WaPo story not excerpted above caught my attention:

    Defenders of Maguire disputed that he is subverting legal requirements to protect Trump, saying that he is trapped in a legitimate legal predicament and that he has made his displeasure clear to officials at the Justice Department and White House.

    After fielding the complaint on Aug. 12, Atkinson submitted it to Maguire two weeks later. By law, Maguire is required to transmit such complaints to Congress within seven days. But in this case, he refrained from doing so after turning for legal guidance to officials at the Justice Department.

    “Trapped in a legitimate legal predicament” is very interesting phrasing. Asserting executive privilege is pretty straightforward, as is the declassification, wise or not, of intelligence material. The fact that he feels he is “trapped” means that there’s something else at work here, as in either a violation of the law, or some area that is just so outside of the norm that we haven’t experienced it yet.

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  33. Jen says:

    @Blue Galangal: The most interesting aspect of that timeline as far as I’m concerned are how the departures of DNI Coats, DDNI Sue Gordon, and Ambassador Huntsman factor into it, along with the whistleblower complaint timing.

    Structured in that way, it looks very much like something happened that caused competent people to say “I’m getting off of this train RIGHT NOW.”

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  34. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Jen:

    he refrained from doing so after turning for legal guidance to officials at the Justice Department.

    The DOJ. Baghdad Barr. The man who completely misrepresented the Mueller Report, in order to protect the President. One of the biggest toadies in the history of toadies.

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  35. mattbernius says:

    @Chip Daniels:
    Agreed on all points. And to a large degree that’s what the Mueller report stated as well.

    The challenge we face is that, to James’ point, we keep discovering how protected the President is from any sort of criminal investigation and prosecution. Impeachment is a fundamentally political tool. And, as a political tool, we are seeing it’s limits on display (both in terms of communicating the need for an impeachment investigation to the American People, and in the ability of the President’s party to politically block it). Your point about the public being a slowly boiled frog is another example of that.

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  36. CSK says:

    An hour ago, Trump tweeted that this is, of course, Fake News. Must mean it’s 100% true.

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  37. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @mattbernius:

    The challenge we face is that, to James’ point, we keep discovering how protected the President is from any sort of criminal investigation and prosecution.

    Well…I guess…especially if people around him are willing to stretch/break the law to protect him.

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  38. mattbernius says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:
    That’s part of the reality.

    But even accepting that, as Mueller pointed out, the question about indicting a sitting president is still undecided and that’s huge.

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  39. Jen says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: Yes, I am well aware of that, not sure why you’re highlighting that to me?

    The latest from the NYT indicates that they are stonewalling the Intel committee.

    At least the whistle-blower is lawyering up:

    Andrew P. Bakaj, a former C.I.A. and Pentagon official whose legal practice specializes in whistle-blower and security clearance issues, confirmed that he is representing the official who filed the complaint. Mr. Bakaj declined to identify his client or to comment.

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  40. CSK says:

    The ICIG (Atkinson) would not reveal the contents of the complaint. He spoke about the process by which it came to his attention.

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  41. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Jen:

    not sure why you’re highlighting that to me?

    Only because it was part of the quote you included in your comment.

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  42. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @mattbernius:
    I can buy that you have to impeach the guy and get him out of office before you can put him in jail.
    But when his people go up to Capital Hill and obstruct and are in contempt of Congress then there have to be consequences.
    But that is on the Dems for allowing themselves to be made patsy’s.

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  43. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    It’s important to keep in mind here that NO MATTER what the incident between Trump and the foreign entity was…even if it is perfectly legal and totally above board…the subsequent cover up is still illegal.
    You’ve probably never heard this before, but it’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up.
    But again…with the Dems in charge of getting accountability, the bad guys are going to win. Nothing will come of this entire episode.

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  44. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Schiff came out of the meeting with the DNI and spoke.
    They still don’t have the complaint, or know anything about the complaint.
    Yeah…Democrats are getting rolled, again.
    Perhaps they will write a sternly worded letter. Maybe shake their fists in the air. Again.

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  45. Blue Galangal says:

    @Jen: Agreed – esp. given that Dan Coats also advised Sue Gordon to resign.

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  46. JKB says:

    I’ve found it amazing how many EMPLOYEES of the administrative state, many graduates our finest indoctrination status universities in fields such as law, political science, national security are completely surprised by the fact that the authority and therefore the final decisions rest with the Constitutional officers of which the President is one above all. Apparently, they were absent the day the professor covered this bit of reality. No matter how impressive their title, how much they feel superior, these poor men and women need to deal with the reality that they are subordinates of the President.

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  47. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @JKB:
    What you Cult#45 members forget is that the president is NOT above the law.

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  48. Raoul says:

    At the end of the day what will matter is what is at the bottom of the complaint. So what could Trump promise to a foreign leader that would prompt such a strong reaction from an intelligence officer? I mean these people peddle in a very sordid world so it has to be something extraordinary. Also a promise, like a contract, typically involves doing something for something. So could it be releasing top secret information? Maybe, but Trump is a money guy, and controlling foreign aid is one of the clear powers he has. So he would allow money to flow to someone if they did something- either bribery or damaging political information on his opponents. Either would prompt a reaction from an intelligence officer.

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  49. Teve says:

    k-drum:

    I can’t tell you how much I would like to never write or hear the name Trump ever again. I mean, an intelligence official filing a whistleblower complaint against the president? That’s insane. And yet, here we are.

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  50. Jen says:

    @JKB: I think you might have missed the point of having three separate *and co-equal* branches of government.

    The President is NOT “above all,” which is precisely why we have checks and balances residing in the Congress and SCOTUS.

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  51. reid says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: Gee, I wonder if he would be saying these things if the president’s name was Obama….

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  52. mattbernius says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    But when his people go up to Capital Hill and obstruct and are in contempt of Congress then there have to be consequences.

    I completely agree.

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  53. Teve says:

    @Jen: If Libtard America separated from Jesustan, Jesustan would have a (White, male, “Christian”) dictator so fast it would give you whiplash.

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  54. Chip Daniels says:

    @JKB:
    We the people grant our employees, the President and Congress, authority to act in our name.

    We can also impeach and remove them at any time for virtually any reason we deem appropriate.

    We don’t need to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the Executive is not entitled to due process other than the Constitutional provisions for impeachment, and the final arbiters of the process are the People themselves.

    Once again, I shouldn’t have to belabor this, but it seems a lot of pundits miss this.

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  55. @JKB:

    is one above all.

    The President is not an absolute monarch.

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  56. Mister Bluster says:

    The President is not an absolute monarch.

    Aren’t you forgetting Article XII?
    Donald Trump Says He’ll Protect Constitution’s ‘Article XII’

    JKB has a copy of the United States Constitution that include this clause.
    It’s on the wall right next to the pictures of the airports that the Continental Army liberated in 1775.
    FOX NEWS was there!

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  57. CSK says:

    Not just one phone call, but “multiple actions,” say the NYT and CNN.

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  58. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @CSK:
    Damn you, CSK…
    The NYTimes is saying the complaint;

    “was related to a series of actions that goes beyond any single discussion.”

    I won’t pay for a subscription to the NYTimes, so I have no idea what else it says.

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  59. Teve says:

    @Mister Bluster: all school children grow up learning about Washington’s heroic efforts to turn back the British at LaGuardia.

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  60. JKB says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: The President is not an absolute monarch.

    Among Constitutional offices he is on top. There is the Legislative and Judicial branches who can impose limits en-mass, although some judges seem to think they are above all.

    And ultimately the President answers to the voters.

    But among Executive Branch employees, regardless of the hopes and dreams of the administrative state, the President is the ultimate authority above all others. Don’t want to follow the President’s orders, resign.

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  61. CSK says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: The NYT doesn’t say a great deal else. The phone call was just one part of it.

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  62. Stormy Dragon says:

    @JKB:

    But among Executive Branch employees, regardless of the hopes and dreams of the administrative state, the President is the ultimate authority above all others. Don’t want to follow the President’s orders, resign.

    I hereby dub this argument “The Nuremberg Offense”

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  63. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @JKB:

    Don’t want to follow the President’s orders, resign.

    You’re an imbecile.
    No one has to follow an extralegal order. The president can order you to do something, but if it is illegal there are procedures to do something about it. And if you follow an illegal order you are subject to prosecution.
    Currently the DOJ and the DNI are acting as Trumps consiglieries and breaking the law, whether they were directed in a spoken, or unspoken manner by the president.

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  64. Kathy says:

    Call it the magic of Trump: he’s made Democrats miss Jeff Sessions.

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  65. Fortunato says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:
    The entirety of the NYT’s revelation is summed up in this paragraph:

    The complaint was related to multiple acts, Michael Atkinson, the inspector general for American spy agencies, told lawmakers during a private briefing, two officials familiar with it said. But he declined to discuss specifics, including whether the complaint involved the president, according to committee members.

    The rest of the story rehashes the WaPo coverage and public statements by Schiff and other lawmakers that are found in most other stories.

    I find far more disturbing the accompanying story in the NYT:
    Trump Lawyers Argue He Cannot Be Criminally Investigated

    Taking a broad position that the lawyers acknowledged had not been tested, the president’s legal team argued in the complaint that the Constitution effectively makes sitting presidents immune from all criminal inquiries until they leave the White House.

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  66. @JKB:

    Among Constitutional offices he is on top.

    That doesn’t place him above the law.

    This is a rather important fact.

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  67. Jen says:

    @JKB: I don’t know where you are getting this “president is on top” of the branches established by the Constitution.

    The branches are co-equal, and in fact the one listed first in the constitution is the Legislative branch.

    Oh, and the argument for a single executive, as put forth in Federalist #70–the reason for this–was to ensure accountability. This president doesn’t think he’s accountable for anything.

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  68. wr says:

    @JKB: “many graduates our finest indoctrination status universities”

    Always wondered what makes someone like JKB as hateful and bitter as he comes across, and I’d guess this is the tell — couldn’t get into a decent college with his shit-poor grades in high school and now despises everyone who did.

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  69. JKB says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I fear you might be horrified if you ever looked into just what is proper for a Constitutional Officer to do that subordinates are not permitted and cannot be delegated. In the case at hand, the President has original authority for foreign relations and talking to foreign leaders.

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  70. @JKB:

    the President has original authority for foreign relations and talking to foreign leaders.

    Which you will defend as to include using the office to pressure a foreign leader to provide dirt on a political opponent?

    Could you elaborate, please?

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