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Sewell secures commitment that whistleblower can testify before House committee

Congresswoman Terri Sewell during a committee hearing. Office of Rep. Terri Sewell

Congresswoman Terri Sewell last week questioned Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire on the Trump Administration’s handling of the whistleblower report and secured his commitment that he would work to ensure the whistleblower can share his or her testimony directly with the Committee.

Sewell said that the administration’s failure to immediately deliver the whistleblower report to Congress as outlined in the law would have a “chilling effect” on future whistleblowers and might encourage others to refrain from delivering critical oversight information to Congress.

“I want to turn to what I fear may be one of the most damaging long-term effects of this whistleblower episode and that is the chilling effect that it will have on others in government who may witness misconduct, but now may be afraid to come forward to report it,” Sewell said. “Sir, I’m worried that government employees and contractors may see how important this situation has played out and decide it’s not worth putting themselves on the line. The fact that a whistleblower followed all of the proper procedures to report misconduct and then the department of justice and the White House seems to have weighed in to keep the complaint hidden, is problematic, sir.”

“Congresswoman, I think that’s a fair assessment,” Acting Director Maguire said. “I don’t disagree with what you’ve said. “I have endeavored to transmit to the Intelligence Community my support of the whistleblower and I’m quite sure that for at least two hours this morning, there are not many people in the Intelligence Community who are doing anything that is productive besides watching this.”

Sewell is a senior member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

“I just also want to ask you, have you given direction to this whistleblower that he can, in fact, or he or she, can, in fact, come before Congress?” Sewell said. “Director, when the President called whistleblower a political hack and suggested that he or she was potentially disloyal to the country, you remained silent, I’m not sure why, but I think that adds to the chilling effect. The statute seems pretty clear that you shall — everybody has a role to play. The process seems pretty clear. Part of it also includes you directing the whistleblower of his or her protected rights. Can you confirm that you’ve directed that whistleblower that he or she can come before Congress?”

“Well, Congresswoman, there are several questions there. One, I do not know the identity of the whistleblower,” Maguire explained. “Two, now that complaint has come forward, we are working with his counsel in order to be able to provide them with security clearance.”

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“My question is pretty simple. Can you assure this Committee and the American public that the whistleblower is authorized to speak to the Committee with the full protections of the Whistleblower Act?’ Sewell asked. “Can you confirm that? That’s a yes or no question.”

“I’m working through that with the chair and to the best of my ability I believe the chair was asking to have the whistleblower come forward and I’m working with counsel, with the Committee, to support that,” Maguire responded.

Sewell continued, “Can you assure the American public that the end result will be that the whistleblower will be able to come before this Committee and Congress and have the full protections of the whistleblower — after all, what is the whistleblower statute for if not to provide those full protections against retaliation against litigation?”

“Congresswoman, I am doing everything to endeavor to support that,” Maguire said.

Chairman Adam Schiff (D-California) then asked: “Do I have your assurance once you work out the security clearances for the whistleblower’s counsel, that that whistleblower will be able to relate the full facts within his knowledge, the concerned whistleblower by the president or anyone else, that he or she will not be inhibited what they can tell our Committee, not a minder from the White House or elsewhere, sitting next to them telling them what they can answer or do not answer? Do I have your assurance that the whistleblower will be able to testify fully and freely and enjoy the protections of the law?”

“Yes, congressman,” Maguire answered.

On Sunday, Schiff announced that the Whistleblower has agreed to testify.

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President Donald Trump telephoned the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky and asked the Ukrainian President to investigate a $50,000 a month seat on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company gave Hunter Biden, the son of then Vice-President Joe Biden.

The whistleblower reported the president’s comments as an abuse of power as she/he believed that Trump had threatened to withhold military aid from the country, who is in a five and a half year war with pro-Russia militias. At the time, Biden was the Democratic frontrunner to be the Democratic nominee in 2020.

The president has dismissed this as “hoax.”

Congress, however, has opened an impeachment inquiry into the President’s conduct.

Terri Sewell represents Alabama’s 7th Congressional District.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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