House Intel Committee Chairman Schiff announces subpoenas in Homeland Security whistleblower probe

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff announced subpoenas Tuesday for documents and testimony from the Department of Homeland Security as part of the committee’s whistleblower investigation.

Brian Murphy alleged that officials pressured him to downplay information on Russian influence and the threat represented by White supremacists. The complaint also alleges that Murphy was retaliated against and demoted.

Schiff accused the DHS and Joseph B. Maher, the head of its Office of Intelligence and Analysis, of “effectively blocking the whistleblower from testifying” and failing to provide documents.

DHS has denied the allegations in both the complaint and from Schiff.

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“The whistleblower complaint from Mr. Murphy is patently false, it’s a fabrication, completely,” acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf said at a Senate confirmation hearing last week.

He said Murphy was reassigned because of allegations he abused his authority by personally directing the collection of information on U.S. journalists.

In this March 3, photo House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington. Schiff said Tuesday, Sept. 29, that he will subpoena the Department of Homeland Security after a department whistleblower wasn’t allowed access to documents and clearance he needs to testify. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

In this March 3, photo House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington. Schiff said Tuesday, Sept. 29, that he will subpoena the Department of Homeland Security after a department whistleblower wasn’t allowed access to documents and clearance he needs to testify. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

In a letter to Maher, Schiff wrote that Murphy’s lawyers had not been granted temporary security clearances by the DHS that would allow them to work on his deposition in the case, which the committee said it has repeatedly been forced to delay.

“The Committee will no longer tolerate the obstruction and attempts to run out the clock by the Department,” Schiff said in a statement.

The subpoenas aim to force the DHS to hand over records related to an ongoing whistleblower probe and to compel Maher to testify under oath.

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The DHS denied that it was “stonewalling” the committee and said in a statement that the subpoenas amounted to “obvious political theater.”

DHS said it produced “nearly 3,000 pages of documents” in addition to other materials for the House committee.

The subpoenas are seeking an Oct. 6 deadline for DHS to hand over the documents and testimony from Maher on Oct. 2.

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“The Committee has a responsibility to independently investigate and substantiate Mr. Murphy’s serious allegations, and you and your office have a legal obligation to comply,” Schiff wrote to Maher. “The allegations, as the Committee has underscored repeatedly, fall squarely within the Committee’s legislative jurisdiction and strike at the heart of the Committee’s constitutional oversight responsibility.”

Fox News’ Adam Shaw contributed to this report.

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Welwyn Garden City chairman urges PL clubs to offer help to grassroots football

Welwyn Garden City chairman Ray Fiveash has told Premier League sides to put their financial plights into perspective as the coronavirus pandemic continues to threaten grassroots football.

As professional clubs count the cost of the delay in returning supporters to stadiums after an increase in Covid-19 cases, there have been calls for a rethink to help those whose finances are in turmoil.

But, further down the pyramid, the measures put in place to combat the spread of coronavirus continue to jeopardise the future of non-league and local teams.

The ‘State of Play’ report, commissioned by energy firm Utilita and released on Monday, revealed 10 per-cent of grassroots clubs fear closure in the coming months.

Former England goalkeeper David James visited the home of Welwyn Garden City FC to raise awareness of the effect Covid-19 is having on grassroots football.

One such club is Welwyn Garden City, who play in the Southern League Division One Central from their Herns Way ground.

Welwyn played their first game in over six months on September 12 with a 2-0 win over Saffron Walden – but many of their revenue streams have been cut off by Covid-19 guidelines.

Due to celebrate their centenary next summer, there are now genuine concerns the club will not be around to toast their 100-year existence – something Fiveash believes puts into stark reality the different challenges faces clubs like Welwyn Garden City and their Premier League equivalents.

“They are worried about losing money, we are worried about losing our very club,” he told the PA news agency.

“The issue at grassroots level, when you get to the senior team, it becomes very expensive.

“Covid came along, they locked us all down, that is fine but we depend on things like our bar – that subsidises our sponsorship and without that we go backwards.

“We have to pay water bills, electricity bills all things like that. We have a ground to maintain even when there is no football.

“The figures don’t surprise me one bit. Without a shadow of a doubt the Government have a terrible job to do but we are struggling and falling between the cracks.”

Fiveash feels more should be done to ensure the revenue created at the top of the game is filtering through to help the clubs in peril.

“Most professional clubs are fortunate – they can close their doors and still have a game of football, at least short-term,” he added.

“We are looking for funding from wherever it can come. The Premier League has had too much money and we haven’t had enough, it is dreadful.

“I believe the Premier League should move more money about – players like Jamie Vardy and Stuart Pearce came to football late and they were playing grassroots football – without that we wouldn’t see these late starters – they both went on to play for England.”

Another former England international, 53-cap goalkeeper David James, was born in Welwyn Garden City and would watch his local team

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Democratic chairman says White House blocked FDA commissioner from testifying

The White House blocked Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Stephen Hahn from testifying before the House panel overseeing the administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, its Democratic leaders announced Friday.  

“The American people deserve to hear Commissioner Hahn’s response to those concerns during a public hearing and what actions he is taking to ensure that the agency’s COVID-19 decisions remain science-based,” Reps. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, and Anna EshooAnna Georges EshooHillicon Valley: Zuckerberg acknowledges failure to take down Kenosha military group despite warnings | Election officials push back against concerns over mail-in voting, drop boxes Democrat asks intel agencies if they’re surveilling members of Congress Overnight Health Care: Supreme Court to hear ObamaCare arguments 1 week after election | NYC positive COVID-19 tests hit record low MORE (D-Calif.), who chairs its health subcommittee, said in a statement. “The White House’s muzzling of the FDA’s top scientist further injures public trust and confidence in FDA.”

Earlier this week Democrats on the House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy also accused the White House of blocking trade advisor Peter Navarro from testifying before their panel.

A White House spokesperson told The Hill Hahn was blocked from testifying because it’s “part of the administration’s existing protocol to make sure health officials can keep their time and energy focused on responding to the coronavirus.”

Hahn has testified before Congress four times since the start of the pandemic, the last time being in late June. Since then, three potential coronavirus vaccines moved to phase three trials, which will determine safety and effectiveness. 

Democrats have been skeptical of the administration’s vaccine efforts, which they say may be overlooking important safety measures in an effort to have results before the November elections. 

“I am often asked about how and when FDA will authorize or approve a vaccine to protect against [coronavirus]. Here is my answer: when the agency’s scientific experts have completed their review and are ready to do so, and not a moment before,” Hahn tweeted Friday. 

Late last month Hahn ousted Trump-appointed spokesperson Emily Miller after 11 days on the job amid the fallout over the agency’s decision to issue an emergency use authorization for convalescent plasma to treat COVID-19 patients.

Michael Caputo, a Trump-appointed Health and Human Services (HHS) communications official, announced Wednesday he was taking medical leave after making “comments that reflected poorly on the office and HHS.”

Hahn is still scheduled to appear before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Tuesday, alongside infectious disease expert Anthony FauciAnthony FauciOvernight Health Care: CDC reverses controversial testing guidance | Billions more could be needed for vaccine

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House Foreign Affairs chairman subpoenas U.S. global media chief

Sept. 19 (UPI) — House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel has subpoenaed U.S. global media chief Michael Pack amid fears of bias.

Democrats fear Pack, the CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media since June, an appointee of President Donald Trump, and close ally of former Trump aide Steve Bannon, will move to reshape the leadership and independence of news organizations, such as Voice of America, to be biased in favor of Trump.

The House Affairs panel called Pack to testify after a series of firings in June, Pack’s first month on the job, including the heads of three international broadcast networks for Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. Critics fear Pack will jeopardize the independence of broadcast networks, charged with objectively reporting about the United States and its foreign policy to an international audience of 350 million people.

Engel, D-N.Y., said Friday Pack planned to back out on his commitment to appear at a Sept. 24 hearing.

“His office failed to provide any reasonable alternative dates and his excuse for breaking his commitment is not acceptable,” Engle said in a statement.

Pack has insisted the firings were a routine part of new leadership at the organization and a U.S. Agency for Global Media spokesperson said Friday that Pack couldn’t attend due to a scheduling conflict.

“Michael Pack is disappointed that the Committee has decided to escalate the situation,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “Pack is eager to testify before the Committee to talk about the critical work of USAGM and to answer members’ questions.”

Senate Republicans pushed through the conservative filmmaker’s confirmation to the U.S. Agency for Global Media back in June despite objections from Democrats, who said that the process should be stalled pending the District of Columbia attorney general’s investigation into whether he illegally funneled money from his nonprofit group to his for-profit film company.

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House panel chairman issues subpoena to compel acting DHS secretary to testify

Thompson said that although DHS committed to Wolf testifying Sept. 17, he “reneged on the commitment on September 8,” forcing him to issue a subpoena.

“Nineteen years after the attacks of 9/11, we continue to face grave threats to the homeland. From the coronavirus pandemic to the rise of right-wing extremism to ongoing election interference, there are urgent threats requiring our attention,” Thompson said. “Mr. Wolf’s refusal to testify — thereby evading congressional oversight at this critical time — is especially troubling given the serious matters facing the department and the nation.”

In a Sept. 8 letter to Thompson, the department’s assistant secretary for legislative affairs, Beth Spivey, said Wolf’s appearance before the committee would be inappropriate as officials formally nominated typically do not testify to Congress before they have been confirmed by the Senate.

Wolf was installed to run the department about 10 months ago on an interim basis, a move that a government watchdog has called unlawful. Trump formally nominated Wolf Thursday.

Spivey said Ken Cuccinelli, who is filling the role of deputy secretary, could testify in place of Wolf.

The department had no immediate comment Friday about the subpoena.

The hearing will be held days after a senior department official alleged that he was told to stop providing intelligence reports on the threat of Russian interference in the 2020 election, in part because it “made the President look bad,” an instruction he believed would jeopardize national security.

The official, Brian Murphy, who until recently was in charge of intelligence and analysis at DHS, said in a whistleblower complaint that on two occasions he was told to stand down on reporting about the Russian threat and alleged that senior officials told him to modify other intelligence reports, including about white supremacists, to bring them in line with Trump’s public comments, directions he said he refused.

On July 8, Murphy said in the complaint, Wolf told him that an “intelligence notification” regarding Russian disinformation efforts should be “held” because it was unflattering to Trump, who has long derided the Kremlin’s interference as a “hoax” that was concocted by his opponents to delegitimize his victory in 2016.

Shane Harris contributed to this report.

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House chairman subpoenas DHS acting secretary Wolf for Sept. 17 hearing

Spivey emphasized that DHS had been willing to make Wolf’s deputy Ken Cuccinelli available to testify, which she said should have been sufficient since he’s fully versed in the same subjects as Wolf.

Thompson said in a statement that Wolf’s refusal to testify at the panel’s annual “worldwide threats” hearing was an abdication at a critical time.

“The Committee has not only the authority, but also an obligation to execute its Constitutional oversight responsibilities regarding Mr. Wolf’s decisions and the Department’s actions in securing the homeland,” Thompson said.

The subpoena is the culmination of a series of exchanges between Thompson and DHS that began in June. He said earlier efforts to schedule the hearing in June and July were unworkable for other agencies intending to participate in the hearing, including the FBI and National Counterterrorism Center. Thompson said that DHS indicated Wolf would be available on Sept. 17. Other agencies confirmed their availability for that date as well, Thompson said.

Thompson acknowledged Wolf’s expected nomination as permanent secretary but emphasized that “[s]hould you be nominated, there is no legal prohibition barring you from testifying before the Committee.”

“Moreover, while the relied upon practice may be reasonable in circumstances where the nominee has only served in an ‘acting’ capacity for a short period of time, that is not your situation. The Department has been without a Senate-confirmed Secretary for 17 months,” Thompson added.

In her reply to Thompson, Spivey said Cuccinelli is still willing to appear on Sept. 17 if the committee requests it. In her letter to the panel earlier in the week, Spivey said DHS had informed the Senate of Wolf’s unavailability for a worldwide threats hearing as well, given his pending nomination.

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