House Intelligence panel to subpoena DHS over whistleblower

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said Tuesday he will subpoena the Department of Homeland Security after a department whistleblower wasn’t allowed access to documents and clearance he needs to testify.

Brian Murphy said in a whistleblower complaint earlier this month that he was pressured by more senior officials to suppress facts in intelligence reports about Russian election interference and other matters. Schiff said he will issue two subpoenas to the department for documents and testimony after “unnecessary delay and obstruction” over materials that would allow Murphy to testify to the panel behind closed doors.

Murphy has agreed to tell his story to Congress, but his lawyer has said he cannot appear until he resolves the issues with the department over access to information.

Schiff, D-Calif., said the committee would compel the document production by Oct. 6. The second subpoena would demand that DHS official Joseph Maher, Murphy’s temporary replacement in the Office of Intelligence and Analysis, testify in an open hearing Friday to explain why the department is delaying security clearances to Murphy’s attorneys and failing to produce documents to the committee, as well as to answer questions about Murphy’s complaint.

Schiff said in a statement that the panel “will no longer tolerate the obstruction and attempts to run out the clock by the department.”

Murphy said in the complaint that he was pressured by senior officials to suppress facts in intelligence reports that President Donald Trump might find objectionable, including information about Russian interference in the election and the rising threat posed by white supremacists. The department has denied his allegations.

A former FBI agent and Marine Corps veteran, Murphy also alleged that senior DHS officials pressed him to alter reports so they would reflect administration policy goals. He said he was demoted from his post as principal deputy under secretary in the Office of Intelligence and Analysis for refusing to go along with the changes and for filing confidential internal complaints about the conduct. He remains with the department in a different capacity.

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Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf Defies House Subpoena to Testify Before Congress | National News

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf did not show up to testify in front of a House committee Thursday, defying a subpoena lawmakers issued last week compelling him to appear.

Wolf skipped Thursday’s House Homeland Security Committee hearing on threats to national security, an anticipated move that punctuated days of back-and-forth between committee Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson, Mississippi Democrat, and the Department of Homeland Security over Wolf’s appearance.

President Donald Trump in late August announced his intention to nominate Wolf, who has served as the acting DHS secretary for 10 months, to the permanent secretary position, and formally did so on Sept. 10. DHS last week told the House Homeland Security Committee that Wolf would be unavailable to testify as previously scheduled because it would be “contrary to standard practice” for a nominee to testify while his nomination was pending. Thompson then issued a subpoena for Wolf to appear Thursday.

Wolf was supposed to appear alongside FBI Director Christopher Wray, who did testify before the committee.

DHS, which called the subpoena “brazenly partisan,” says officials offered to instead send the department’s No. 2, Ken Cuccinelli, to testify at the hearing.

Thompson criticized Wolf’s decision not to appear Thursday during his opening statement at the hearing, noting that there is no legal prohibition barring Wolf from testifying.

“Mr. Wolf has run the Department of Homeland Security for the last 10 months and has been responsible for numerous decisions directly relevant to the subjects the Committee intends to explore,” Thompson said. “Regrettably, he has chosen to defy the subpoena. That he would refuse to come before the committee after committing to do so should appall every member of this committee. Insisting Mr. Wolf keeps his commitment to testifying before Congress isn’t playing politics – it’s doing our job.”

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Thompson also noted that Wolf has made numerous media appearances since his nomination to the permanent secretary position, “including no fewer than four appearances on Fox News.”

During the hearing, Cuccinelli and the committee got into a spat on Twitter about the matter.

The brouhaha comes amid increased scrutiny of Wolf’s position and actions. Last week, an explosive whistleblower report alleged that Wolf and Cuccinelli pressured analysts to alter reports on Russian election interference, downplay the threat of violent white supremacists and make other changes to intelligence reports.

In August, the agency that serves as Congress’ independent investigative watchdog concluded that both Wolf and Cuccinelli were ineligible for their current positions – a finding DHS has dismissed as incorrect.

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House Democrats subpoena DHS chief to appear at House hearing

Democrats on the House Homeland Security Committee have subpoenaed Chad Wolf to testify about threats facing the nation, a request that left Wolf “very disappointed,” he said.

Chairman Bennie Thompson issued the subpoena to the acting Homeland Security Secretary attendance for a Sept. 17 hearing. The committee said Wolf reneged on a commitment to appear Sept. 8.

WOLF SAYS ‘LONE, HOMEGROWN’ TERROR THREAT IS TOP DHS FOCUS 19 YEARS AFTER 9/11 

“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 in a statement. “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.”

Wolf pushed back, telling ‘Special Report’ late Friday that he was “very disappointed” in the move.

He said that he agreed to testify on two separate occasions in August, both about worldwide threats and civil unrest in Portland. But since then, President Trump has formally nominated him to take the job he now holds in an acting capacity.

“Since that time I have been nominated, and it has been longstanding practice that as you go up for a nomination, you don’t testify on another matter,” he told host Bret Baier.

SCHIFF REVEALS NEW WHISTLEBLOWER COMPLAINT ALLEGING SUPPRESSION OF RUSSIAN ELECTION INTERFERENCE INTEL REPORTS

He said that DHS offered acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli to testify in his place, and that, “I am happy to testify to the committee once my confirmation process goes through one way or another.”

“So, we have been very accommodating to the committee, and unfortunately, it has come down to this,” he said.

Meanwhile, Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff announced the committee is looking into a complaint about DHS and intelligence reports on Russian election interference.

“We’ve received a whistleblower complaint alleging DHS suppressed intel reports on Russian election interference, altered intel to match false Trump claims and made false statements to Congress,” Schiff, D-Calif., tweeted Wednesday afternoon. “This puts our national security at risk.”

He added: “We will investigate.”

Wolf called the complaint “completely false” and “a fabrication.”

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“We have been very clear regarding Russia interference in our elections …” Wolf said on ‘Special Report. “We have produced over 27 different reports over the last 12 months, I believe three alone in the month of August. We provided over 40 different briefings, in-person briefings, to members of Congress … about Russian interference in our elections. I have talked about it in media appearances such as this, I have talked about it in congressional testimony and I have talked about it even this week in my state of the homeland security address.”

Fox News’ Brooke Singman and Charles Creitz contributed to this report.

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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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