Top intelligence community lawyer leaving position

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Jason Klitenic, the general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) whose handling of a government whistleblower complaint helped spur the House’s impeachment inquiry into President Trump, is stepping down from his post, an agency spokeswoman told Politico

Klitenic is planning to exit the department in early March, the news outlet reported, adding that it is unclear what led to his departure from the agency. The office did not immediately return a request for comment from The Hill. 

Klitenic’s announced departure comes less than a month before the deadline for acting DNI Joseph Maguire to exit his position. A federal law that limits how long an official can serve as acting DNI prevents Maguire from serving past March 11.

Maguire and Klitenic’s decision to block the dissemination of a government whistleblower complaint that Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson deemed “urgent” sparked outrage from Democratic lawmakers last September.

The complaint, which was later released publicly, focused on Trump’s dealings with Ukraine and alleged that the president had pressured the nation to announce investigations of his political rivals. It was at the center of the House’s eventual vote to impeach Trump.

Klitenic said in a letter to Atkinson at the time that Maguire consulted with the Justice Department and determined that the complaint was not authorized for congressional disclosure because it “did not concern allegations of conduct by a member of the Intelligence Community or involve an intelligence activity under the DNI’s supervision.” 

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) requested the whistleblower complaint after first learning that Atkinson dubbed it “urgent.” But Klitenic later responded by noting that DNI had consulted with the Justice Department and determined that the documents did not meet the criteria for public disclosure. 

“Based on those consultations, we determined that the allegations did not fall within the statutory definition of an ‘urgent concern’ and that the statute did not require the complaint to be transmitted to the intelligence committees,” Klitenic wrote in a September letter to leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence committees. 

He also said in that letter that the contents of the complaint included “potentially privileged communications by persons outside the Intelligence Community.”

Schiff had argued at the time that the DNI’s refusal to hand over the complaint violated a law requiring officials to disclose whistleblower complaints deemed urgent. He also said that Klitenic’s letter suggested the complaint involved President Trump and other members of his administration. 

Maguire testified before Congress the same week the House launched an impeachment inquiry. He described the whistleblower complaint as “credible” and “important,” but he defended the move to block its disclosure. He said that the conversation between Trump and another foreign leader was protected by executive privilege, which he did not have authorization to waive.

Klitenic was sworn in to his position as general counsel in August 2018 after a unanimous confirmation in the U.S. Senate. He was a partner at the law firm of Holland & Knight LLP before his arrival at the agency, according to a DNI website profile

UPDATED 1:12 p.m.


Tags Adam Schiff Donald Trump Joseph Maguire

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