In a recently declassified letter from Michael Atkinson, we learn that his investigation didn’t even include a review of the phone transcript at the core of the entire complaint.
Matt BeebeMatt Beebe
By Matt Beebe
October 2, 2019
On Monday afternoon, the Intelligence Community Inspector General published a press release describing his office’s handing of whistleblower complaints, attempting to quell the firestorm created by untimely changes to a key whistleblower form that raised suspicions amongst the public and members of Congress.
Unfortunately, this firestorm does not appear to be dying down, and elements of the release only cast further doubts on how Atkinson and his team have handled this entire episode, and whether they are finally being forthright about the rationale and timing of the changes or trying to obfuscate their way through the crisis. The release clearly confirmed that the IG did in fact remove the “first-hand information” requirement from the form in August, as The Federalist first reported last week.
The release also attempted to leave the impression that the change was routine with its timing unrelated to the Ukraine complaint. It spent nearly an entire page of the three-page document describing an initiative to update forms that was apparently ongoing in the organization. Notably, multiple press outlets have used that characterization to minimize the issue, some even calling genuine concerns about the apparent subterfuge by the ICIG a “hoax story.”
Nobody has seriously argued that the ICIG wouldn’t be allowed (or even obligated) to begin an investigation regardless of the source of an allegation. The outrage is because the ICIG was caught with its hand in the cookie jar trying to protect the optics of a “credibility” determination that continues to draw more scrutiny as more time passes.
A lack of first-hand knowledge of an allegation should not disqualify it, but it reasonably drives questions about the overall credibility of a complaint. Which is what investigations are for.
The Investigation that Never Happened
As I noted previously, Atkinson promised during his confirmation hearings to conduct investigations in accordance with the basic quality standards promulgated by Council of the Inspectors General. However, in a shocking review of the recently declassified letter he transmitted to Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire on August 26, we learn that his investigation didn’t even include a review of the phone transcript at the core of the entire complaint. Yes, you read that right.