Three top senators blasted the intelligence community inspector general (ICIG) Michael Atkinson for continuing to stonewall congressional efforts to determine why whistleblower rules and forms requiring firsthand information were suddenly changed last month. As The Federalist first reported and the ICIG confirmed in a subsequent press release, whistleblower forms and guidance requiring all complaints to contain firsthand information were secretly changed and then backdated after the ICIG received an anti-Trump complaint that consisted entirely of second-hand information.
Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., and Mike Lee, R-Utah, wrote Atkinson on Wednesday demanding answers about his office’s actions and behavior regarding the whistleblower rules changes. The lawmakers expressed dismay at his refusal to answer their previous queries on the matter.
“[W]e are concerned that you are ‘unable to explain how or why the language [about how the ICIG must be in possession of reliable, firsthand information] was included, or how it came into use’ in the informational sheet,” the three lawmakers wrote. “The information we seek and the questions we are asking should be easily obtained or answered especially in light of your testimony before the intelligence committees.”
“We expect that this — our third request — will be the final time that we have to request that you provide full and complete answers to the Committees,” they tersely noted.
Grassley, Johnson, and Lee noted that Atkinson had refused to answer 13 separate questions regarding the secret changes his office made to whistleblower rules after it received a complaint that was built entirely on second-hand information and gossip and riddled with errors.
They wrote that Atkinson’s responses to their previous letters “mostly repeated information from your press release and failed to answer the vast majority of the questions” they had asked. In addition to directing Atkinson to fully respond to those 13 questions instead of stonewalling, the senators posed an additional question about whether the anti-Trump complainant may have lied on the form he submitted to the ICIG.
“A recent report indicates that you told a House Committee that the complainant did not disclose to the ICIG his/her contact with Congress prior to the filing of the complaint,” they wrote. “Is this accurate?”
The New York Times reported that the complainant had secretly coordinated with House Democrats prior to filing his complaint against Trump. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who chairs the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, had previously lied about interactions between his staff and the complainant, falsely claiming that nobody had interacted with him. Fox News later reported that despite these contacts between the complainant and congressional Democrats, the complainant nonetheless claimed on his formal whistleblower form that he had never discussed his allegations with Congress.
The complainant’s alleged failure to tell the truth on that form could land him in hot water, as it is a felony to misrepresent facts or conceal material facts in whistleblower complaints. A full page of the whistleblower form asks questions about any previous disclosures of violations alleged in the complaint so the ICIG can take appropriate action in response to the complaint.
“I have previously disclosed (or am disclosing) the violations alleged here to (complete all that apply),” the form requires the complainant to attest. The form includes checkboxes for disclosures to other inspectors general, other agencies, the Department of Justice, the Government Accountability Office, the Office of Special Counsel, other executive branch departments, Congress and its respective committees, and media. It also includes a separate question asking the complainant to detail those previous disclosures to the ICIG.
The senators told Atkinson they expected full and truthful answers from him by Friday, Oct. 18.