Intel hearing on global threats delayed amid fears of provoking Trump's ire
Feb. 07, 2020
Intelligence leaders initially wanted to abandon the public portion of the congressional hearing to avoid upsetting Trump.
Last year’s public hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee saw the chiefs from NSA, CIA and other agencies present findings that split from many of the president’s public statements on North Korea, Iran and Russia.
Trump later lashed out at them on Twitter, suggesting the leaders “go back to school.”
The day after POLITICO’s report, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) invited intelligence agency leaders to appear before his panel on Feb. 12.
“The hearing provides an opportunity for I.C. seniors to provide an unclassified, yet important broad understanding of how threats have evolved and what the nation can expect in the year to come,” Schiff wrote in a letter to acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire.
Congressional sources told POLITICO that the clandestine community would still prefer the testimony be entirely classified but aren’t aggressively pursuing the argument in the face of bipartisan resistance in both chambers. People familiar with the talks asked not to be named in order to speak freely about the ongoing negotiations.
An ODNI spokesperson said that “we are still having productive discussions with the committees on the timing of the Worldwide Threat Assessment hearings.”
One Capitol Hill source said the agency chiefs would likely prefer to appear before the GOP-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee first to avoid the hyper-partisanship that has seized its House counterpart in recent years, and in the hope the session would focus on the top threats to the nation without careening into other topics.
Indeed, since Schiff sent his invite, he has alleged that the NSA and CIA may be withholding documents on Ukraine from Congress due to pressure from the White House.
The last time Maguire testified publicly was in October, when he appeared before Schiff’s panel for a tense session over his handling of the whistleblower complaint that exposed Trump’s political pressure campaign on Ukraine, which sparked impeachment proceedings.
A House Judiciary Committee hearing this week with FBI Director Christopher Wray signaled that the president’s congressional allies remain eager to grill national security leaders over missteps dating back to the 2016 election.
Wray’s congressional appearance was his first since the Justice Department inspector general report that chastised the FBI’s monitoring of former Trump campaign aide Carter Page and GOP lawmakers hammered him repeatedly over the watchdog’s findings.
“The failures highlighted in that report are unacceptable. Period. … It cannot be repeated,” Wray said during the nearly five-hour hearing. “I do not think anyone has carte blanche to bypass rules, and I intend to make that painfully clear, that that is not acceptable in the FBI today.”
Now that Trump’s impeachment trial has wrapped in the Senate, it should be easier for the panel to schedule the annual assessment from the intelligence community, which usually takes place anytime between February and May.
A spokesperson for Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) declined to comment.
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