U.S. Senate committee joins House panel in probing Homeland whistleblower complaint

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Senate intelligence committee is investigating a whistleblower complaint filed by a former top U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official alleging he was pressed to skew official intelligence reports for political purposes, according to a letter seen by Reuters.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf arrives with U.S. President Donald Trump to participate in an Iowa disaster recovery briefing, at the Eastern Iowa Airport in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, U.S., August 18, 2020. REUTERS/Tom Brenner

Senators Marco Rubio and Mark Warner, the committee’s Republican acting chair and Democrat vice chair, wrote to DHS deputy general counsel Joseph Maher on Thursday, saying they had received the complaint and asking for related documents.

Brian Murphy, who until recently was acting chief of DHS’ intelligence and analysis (I&A) office, alleged in the complaint that acting DHS chief Chad Wolf asked him to stop providing assessments on Russian election interference and to play down U.S. white supremacist activity.

“As the Committee investigates this matter, we respectfully request that you provide the Committee with all intelligence assessments produced by I&A related to Mr. Murphy’s complaint including but not limited to products related to migration and asylum, foreign interference in U.S. elections, and domestic threats related to white supremacism, antifa and ‘anarchist groups’”, the senators’ letter says.

A spokesman for Rubio said Murphy’s complaint “will be treated as seriously as any other complaint.”

DHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment but said on Wednesday, “We flatly deny that there is any truth to the merits of Mr. Murphy’s claim.”.

The Rubio-Warner letter, first reported by Reuters, indicates the Republican-led Senate committee is joining the Democrat-led House Intelligence Committee in digging into allegations in the complaint that Murphy, who served as acting DHS intelligence for several months this year, filed earlier this week with the DHS Inspector General.

Mark Zaid, a lawyer for Murphy, said “We have specifically requested DHS’s position on whether it will block Mr. Murphy’s classified testimony before relevant congressional committees, including when faced with a subpoena.”

Murphy’s complaint alleges that Wolf told him to stop providing assessments of the threat of Russian interference in the Nov. 3 election and to play down U.S. white supremacist activity. Murphy says Wolf told him in mid-May to report instead on political interference threats posed by China and Iran, and to highlight the involvement of left-wing groups in domestic disorder.

The House Intelligence Committee requested that Murphy appear for a deposition on Sept. 21. House committee chairman Adam Schiff said on Friday he met with the DHS’ Maher earlier this week to discuss Murphy’s complaint.

The White House has denied suggestions by Murphy that Robert O’Brien, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, instructed Wolf to play up intelligence supporting Trump’s political themes.

Reporting By Mark Hosenball; Editing by Tom Brown

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