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KPBS Midday Edition Segments

Whistleblower: White House Tried To 'Lock Down' Call Details

 September 26, 2019 at 10:31 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 Acting director of national intelligence. Joseph McGuire testified before Congress this morning as a witness in the formal impeachment inquiry. He tried to explain why he failed to bring a whistleblower complaint directly to Congress, but instead alerted the white house and department of justice to the complaint. A redacted version of that complaint was released to the public. Today. In addition to talking about president Trump's call to Ukraine's president, the whistleblower also alleges an attempted cover up by the white house to quote lockdown all information about the call. Joining me to review this morning's events in Washington is former San Diego federal prosecutor Chuck Labella. And Chuck, welcome to the program. Thanks for having me. What are some of your biggest takeaways from this morning's testimony? By acting intelligence chief Maguire, Speaker 2: 00:47 it raises more questions than answers and I think, um, this is not the end of this inquiry, whether it's, um, the, the, the, the house and the Senate that take up this inquiry or, um, the FBI revisits its decision and the DOJ revisits his decision not to, not to investigate this matter because there seems to be a lot of there, there. Speaker 1: 01:08 No. A declassified part of the whistleblower complaint was released this morning. From what you've been able to see so far is the complaint in line with what we've learned about the phone call between president Trump and Ukraine's president. Speaker 2: 01:21 Yeah, it very much is. But what's clearer and what screams from, from the complaint is that there are witnesses that have to be interviewed and there's evidence that has to be reviewed before you can reach a decision that yes or no, there was not a quid pro quo. So I think there's, it will, what it, what it shouts to me is that there's more work to be done. Maybe the FBI has done it, maybe the DOJ has done it, maybe they've interviewed all the witnesses, maybe they have reviewed. If there is in fact an audio tape. And I'd be shocked if there's not an audio tape of this, uh, this conversation. Maybe they've determined that there's nothing there, but I think the American people are gonna want to know those, those answers to those questions. Speaker 1: 02:00 If an investigation like that had taken place, wouldn't Congress be privy to that? Speaker 2: 02:05 It depends. If it involves national security and foreign foreign intelligence, it could have been briefed to the, uh, to the hell, but, um, it doesn't have to be Speaker 1: 02:14 acting director McGuire. He was attempting to explain why he turned over a complaint about the president and with references to attorney general William Barr to the white house and the department of justice. Does the explanation that the conversation was with a foreign leader, does that make sense to you? Speaker 2: 02:33 It doesn't make a lot of sense, but it gives him some cover because you know, there, there is classified information that could have been discussed and, and so in an excess of caution, you would probably take that first step. Speaker 1: 02:44 Is that chain of events though unusual with a whistleblower complaint? Isn't it supposed to go directly to Congress? Speaker 2: 02:51 It is. And, and, and the reason is because you don't want anybody in the government to interfere with something that potentially an armor branch of the government because they have a vested interest in it. So yeah, it's a, it's a, a, a potentially conflicting situation. You're putting the white house, uh, N DOJ in, but I could see him doing it, but I, I, I can't see the justification for not releasing it to Congress. At the same time. Now, Republican members of Congress, uh, pointed out this morning that the whistleblower's allegations are based on second hand information from other us officials. Do you think that undermines the whistleblowers credibility? No, I think it, it, it actually, as I said before, I think it shouts very loudly that an investigation with integrity has to be done and objective investigation has to be done to determine what the facts are because yes, it is secondhand. Speaker 2: 03:45 And if you look at this manuscript, which is basically the handwritten notes of, of someone who was told about the, um, um, the conversation, there's enough there I think, uh, predication to, to commence an investigation. And once that's done, you've got to determine by talking to all the witnesses, including, you know, was there a conversation between the attorney general and, and, uh, Rudy Giuliani. Um, was there a conversation between the attorney general and the president about this? What was the substance of those conversations? Whether it's substances, substantive conversations in the department of justice about this, what happened. So all those questions need to be answered. And I don't think any of this answers those questions. It just, it's provocative, but we don't have any answers yet. And you are, however, talking about a criminal investigation press into this, what would it be? The underlying crime that would be investigated? Speaker 2: 04:37 Well it would be a quid pro quo. It would potential conflict of interest and there potentially mail fraud, wire fraud, bribery statutes, that all could be implicated. You just don't know until you get dig down into the facts. But it certainly is on it's face provocative. It has been reported that the department of justice has passed on any criminal investigation into this matter. But if you were investigating this matter for either Congress or the DOJ, what would you want to look into next? I'd want to look to, um, the interview all the witnesses who were there present for the conversation. I'd want to determine if there is a audio transcript or is an audio tape of the conversation so I could listen to it myself. And, and, and that, I think any prosecutor would want to do that. Then you'd want to interview the, the percipient witnesses, the people who were actually in the room at the time. Speaker 2: 05:25 What is their recollection and what's the context of the call? And then you've got to chase the military aid because what we know from it's been reported in the press that the aide was halted. I mean, it was, you know, stopped for, for, for a period of time before the call, and then at some time after the call it was released. But I'd like to know the conversations that surrounded why the military aid was halted. Was there a legitimate reason for it, or was it just out of nowhere? And again, I, you know, I've worked with the department of justice for 20 years, and I've worked with the FBI. I'd be shocked and amazed if they closed an investigation without driving that to ground. I've been speaking with former San Diego federal prosecutor check Labella Chuck. Thank you. Thank you. Speaker 3: 06:12 Uh.

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The nine-page document released Thursday fleshes out the circumstances of a summertime phone call in which Trump encouraged his Ukraine counterpart to help investigate a political rival, alleges a central role for one of the president's personal lawyers and suggests a concerted White House effort to suppress the exact transcript, including by relocating it to a separate computer system.
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