Schiff subpoenas Homeland Security, charges 'unlawful obstruction'

Schiff subpoenas Homeland Security, charges 'unlawful obstruction'
© Greg Nash

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffOvernight Hillicon Valley — Hacking goes global Schiff calls on Amazon, Facebook to address spread of vaccine misinformation Spotlight turns to GOP's McCarthy in Jan. 6 probe MORE (D-Calif.) issued two subpoenas to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Tuesday, alleging that agency officials are "unlawfully obstructing" his panel's investigation related to a whistleblower complaint.

Schiff is seeking public testimony from Joseph Maher, the top official carrying out the duties of the under secretary for the Office of Intelligence and Analysis, related to charges from a whistleblower that top political appointees at the department sought to politicize intelligence. 

“After weeks, and in some cases months, of attempted accommodation with the Department, we were left with no choice but to issue two subpoenas today," Schiff said in a statement.

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“Simply put, the Committee will no longer tolerate the obstruction and attempts to run out the clock by the Department," Schiff added.

Democrats want Maher to testify Friday about why the whistleblower, Brian Murphy, was not granted access to classified records related to his complaint. 

Schiff also issued a subpoena to compel DHS to produce the records the panel is seeking by next Tuesday.

The subpoenas come after Schiff twice postponed scheduled depositions with Murphy, who was formerly the acting under secretary for the Office of Intelligence and Analysis.

Murphy's legal team said it had not received access to documents related to his complaint, which detailed allegations that top department officials repeatedly sought to politicize intelligence to match President Trump’s public remarks, including about threats like Russian interference.

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Murphy alleges in his complaint that there was a pattern of misconduct in which top political appointees repeatedly pressed him to modify or alter intelligence on key issues.

Perhaps the most alarming allegation Murphy makes is his claim that acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad WolfChad WolfSunday shows preview: States deal with fallout of Ida; Texas abortion law takes effect Biden, Trump battle over who's to blame for Afghanistan The border is shifting from a manufactured crisis to a national embarrassment MORE, under the direction of White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien, instructed him earlier this year to stop producing intelligence reports centered on Russian interference efforts and instead focus on the threats posed by China and Iran.

Murphy says he declined multiple orders to alter or modify intelligence products to help support the administration's agenda, which he claims recently led to a retaliatory demotion.

DHS has denied any wrongdoing by Wolf, who has been formally nominated to serve as head of the agency. 

A DHS spokesman denied that the agency was stonewalling Schiff, instead chalking up his subpoenas to being "obvious political theater."  
 
"The department has produced nearly 3,000 pages of documents and has provided two briefings and three transcribed interviews to date," the spokesman said in a statement.

The spokesperson also claimed that Schiff is "apparently willing to risk national security" to push forward with his investigation ahead of the 2020 election.

The agency has argued that Murphy, in his current role in DHS’s management division, does not have the “need to know” to access the records he is seeking. They also have defended their efforts to get security clearances for Murphy’s lawyers, arguing that the vetting process takes time and rushing it will jeopardize national security.

Schiff revealed last week that he would move forward with a subpoena if the issues over access to records and Murphy’s lawyers were not resolved, alleging that DHS is stonewalling his committee by blocking Murphy’s deposition by preventing him from being able to properly prepare.

While the deposition was originally slated for Monday, the committee postponed it to Friday, before again postponing it. The new date of when Schiff’s panel is aiming to hear from Murphy is not yet clear.

Still, Democrats on the panel are eager to hear from Murphy, who will be able to discuss the underlying, classified details related to his allegations that could not be included in an unclassified submission to Congress.

This story was updated at 6:57 p.m.