Schiff says whistleblower wants to speak to House Intel panel

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said Tuesday that the whistleblower who reportedly first raised alarm about President Trump’s conversations with the Ukraine’s leader, wants to speak to the panel, and that they are expecting the whistleblower’s testimony "as soon as this week."

“We have been informed by the whistleblower’s counsel that their client would like to speak to our committee and has requested guidance from the Acting [director of national intelligence] DNI as to how to do so,” Schiff tweeted. “We‘re in touch with counsel and look forward to the whistleblower’s testimony as soon as this week.”

The announcement comes shortly after Trump said he had authorized the release of the official transcript of his July conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during which Trump said he brought up former Vice President Joe Biden’s ties to Kiev.  

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But at the center of the scandal is not the transcript of their phone call, but rather the whistleblower’s complaint, which could contain more information and context in addition to the contents of their phone conversations. 

Acting DNI Joseph Maguire has so far withheld the complaint from Congress, arguing that the allegations do not fall within the intelligence community whistleblower statute.

Andrew Bakaj, the lead attorney for the whistleblower, said in a statement Tuesday evening that lawyers wrote to Maguire "to request specific guidance as to the appropriate security practices to permit a meeting, if needed, with the Members of the Intelligence Oversight Committees."

Lawyers for the whistleblower also released a letter from the general counsel for the DNI's office indicating they were seeking input from others in the administration before offering guidance about the whistleblower engaging with congressional panels.

"Because your client's complaint involves confidential and potentially privileged communications by persons outside of the Intelligence Community, we are consulting with other Executive Branch stakeholders before transmitting to you the guidance sought," the DNI counsel wrote.

"Please know that the DNI's highest priority is ensuring that the women and men of the Intelligence Community have everything they need to carry out their mission of our nation's security," the counsel added.

The DNI counsel letter acknowledged "the time-sensitive nature" of the whistleblower's interest in speaking with lawmakers, adding that officials "expect that we will be able to provide actionable guidance soon." 

Maguire's determination runs counter to that made by intelligence community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, who testified about the handling of the complaint before the Intelligence panel last week. He had determined after a preliminary investigation that the allegations were both credible and an "urgent concern."

Democrats and some legal experts say Maguire, who is set to testify Thursday, exploited a loophole in order to overrule the intelligence community watchdog.

Democrats intend to fight Maguire to obtain the complaint, with Schiff threatening last week to pull at Congress’s pursestrings and go to court. 

While Maguire’s appearance on Thursday raises the stakes as this battle continues to unfold, news the whistleblower wants to testify also ups the ante. 

Updated: 7:48 p.m.