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Intel community watchdog appears to push back on Trump allegations of changes to whistleblower rules

The intelligence community inspector general (ICIG) on Monday appeared to push back on allegations that the rules regarding whistleblower reports had been changed shortly before the complaint regarding President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden adds to vote margin over Trump after Milwaukee County recount Krebs says allegations of foreign interference in 2020 election 'farcical'  Republicans ready to become deficit hawks again under a President Biden MORE's dealings with Ukraine was filed. 

The Office of the Inspector General issued a four-page news release in which it made clear that the whistleblower complaint focused on Trump's July 25 call with the Ukrainian president was processed under procedures put in place in May 2018.

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The inspector general wrote that under the statute, a complainant is not required to have firsthand knowledge of the matter they are referring. However, the anonymous author of the Aug. 12 complaint wrote that they had both firsthand information and information from others about the subject. 

"The ICIG reviewed the information provided as well as other information gathered and determined that the complaint was both urgent and that it appeared credible," the Office of the Inspector General said in Monday's news release. "From the moment the ICIG received the whistleblower’s filing, the ICIG has worked to effectuate Congress’s intent, and the whistleblower’s intent, within the rule of law. The ICIG will continue in those efforts on behalf of all whistleblowers in the Intelligence Community."

The clarification came as Trump and Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamRepublicans ready to become deficit hawks again under a President Biden Let's give thanks to Republican defenders of democracy Clyburn: Biden falling short on naming Black figures to top posts MORE (R-S.C.) have claimed the rules for filing a complaint were changed just before the whistleblower on the Ukraine call came forward.

"This is a sham as far as I am concerned," Graham said on "Face the Nation" on Sunday. "I want to know who told the whistleblower about the phone call. I want to know why they changed the rules about whistleblowers not — the hearsay rule was changed just a short period of time before the complaint was filed."

Trump echoed the senator on Monday, asking in all caps "who changed the long standing whistleblower rules just before submittal of the fake whistleblower report?" 

Sens. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyRep. Rick Allen tests positive for COVID-19 On The Money: Biden to nominate Yellen for Treasury secretary | 'COVID cliff' looms | Democrats face pressure to back smaller stimulus Loeffler to continue to self-isolate after conflicting COVID-19 test results MORE (R-Iowa), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeLoeffler isolating after possible COVID-19 infection Rick Scott tests positive for coronavirus OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee | Forest Service finalizes rule weakening environmental review of its projects | Biden to enlist Agriculture, Transportation agencies in climate fight MORE (R-Utah) and Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonLoeffler isolating after possible COVID-19 infection Rick Scott tests positive for coronavirus GOP Rep. Dan Newhouse tests positive for COVID-19 MORE (R-Wis.) wrote to Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson on Monday asking for clarity about a reported change in the whistleblower complaint process that no longer required complainants to have firsthand knowledge.

Those senators wrote to Atkinson that they were not aware of any federal regulation that required whistleblowers to have firsthand knowledge, and they sought information on why such a policy might have been enacted.

The whistleblower complaint was made public last week. The individual's recounting of events matched up with a rough White House transcript of Trump's call with the Ukrainian president in which he urged the foreign leader to "look into" Democratic presidential candidate Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden adds to vote margin over Trump after Milwaukee County recount Krebs says allegations of foreign interference in 2020 election 'farcical'  New DOJ rule could allow executions by electrocution, firing squad MORE.

The whistleblower further alleged that the White House sought to conceal the contents of the call and restrict access to the transcript to a small group of people.

The president has railed against the whistleblower, accusing the individual of being partisan and decrying their allegations as secondhand information. Trump has said he does not know the whistleblower's identity but told reporters earlier Monday that the White House was working on learning it.

The Whistleblower Protection Act makes it a violation for federal agencies to threaten retaliation against individuals who come forward to raise concerns of wrongdoing within the government.

Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire last week called the complaint "credible" and said the whistleblower "did the right thing."