Pelosi: DNI 'broke the law' in withholding whistleblower complaint

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi eyes end of April to bring a fourth coronavirus relief bill to the floor Pelosi, Democrats using coronavirus to push for big tax cuts for blue state residents US watchdog vows 'aggressive' oversight after intel official fired MORE (D-Calif.) on Thursday went after President TrumpDonald John TrumpPelosi eyes end of April to bring a fourth coronavirus relief bill to the floor NBA to contribute 1 million surgical masks to NY essential workers Private equity firm with ties to Kushner asks Trump administration to relax rules on loan program: report MORE's head of national intelligence, saying the acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Joseph Maguire "broke the law" in withholding a whistleblower complaint from Congress.

"What the DNI did was broke the law. The law is very clear: The DNI 'shall' convey the complaint to the Intelligence committees — not the whole Congress — to the Intelligence committees," Pelosi said during a press briefing in the Capitol.

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Pelosi, who was a member of the House Intelligence Committee in 2004 when the DNI position was created, said the law was "carefully balanced to protect our intelligence and to protect the whistleblower."

"So he has to convey it," she said.

Pelosi's comments came in the midst of Maguire's testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, where he was grilled from both sides over the complaint from a government whistleblower detailing Trump's July call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which Trump suggested he would withhold U.S. military aid to Ukraine unless Zelensky investigated corruption allegations against former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenSome Sanders top allies have urged him to withdraw from 2020 race: report Sunday shows preview: As coronavirus spreads in the U.S., officials from each sector of public life weigh in Trump defends firing of intel watchdog, calling him a 'disgrace' MORE and his son.

The notion that Trump would press a foreign leader to attack a domestic political rival sparked a firestorm on Capitol Hill, leading scores of Democrats to support an impeachment inquiry into the president's conduct — a formal step Pelosi took Tuesday.

Testifying before the committee, Maguire defended his decision to withhold the whistleblower report, saying he consulted with Department of Justice (DOJ) officials, who determined the White House had the authority to block the release by invoking executive privilege.

"Authority I do not have the privilege to waive," Maguire said.

Pelosi rejected that claim, questioning why Maguire would consult with the DOJ since Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrDecentralized leadership raises questions about Trump coronavirus response Feds distributing masks, other gear seized in price-gouging investigation to NY, NJ health care workers The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - All eyes on today's unemployment numbers MORE has been wrapped up in the Ukraine saga. Trump, according to a readout of the call, had suggested Zelensky consult with Barr in investigating the Bidens.

"The very idea that the subject of the complaint is who he went to to find out if it was OK to go forward, I think, is wrong," Pelosi said. "I don't think it's nefarious, I just think it's wrong, and it's against the law."

Pelosi said she read the whistleblower complaint on Wednesday, after Trump agreed to release it to the House and Senate Intelligence committees. The House panel released it publicly Thursday morning. Of the phone call with Zelensky, Pelosi said Trump "betrayed his oath of office, our national security, and the integrity of our elections."

Of the subsequent efforts by the White House to conceal the details of the call, she was equally sharp.

"This is a cover-up," she said. "This is a cover-up."

Pelosi said the focus of the Democrats' impeachment inquiry, while including various investigations being conducted by six separate committees, will now necessarily focus on the Ukraine episode.

"It is an intelligence matter and it is focused in the Intelligence Committee," she said.

"This is the focus of the moment because this is the charge. All of the other work that relates to abuse of power, ignoring subpoenas of Congress, contempt of Congress by him, those things will be considered later," she said.

Pelosi also pushed back against those liberals who believe there's already plenty of evidence that Trump has committed impeachable offenses — and want to vote on impeachment articles immediately.

"There are some in our caucus who think, 'Let's just have an impeachment.' No, we have to have an inquiry to further establish the facts," Pelosi said. "There is no rush to judgment, and in some ways we are a jury, open to what might be exculpatory or not."