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Tom Cotton: Intel IG Obstructing Congress on Backdated ‘Whistleblower’ Form Changes

(INSET: Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson) Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., listens during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018, on global challenges and U.S. national security strategy. The witnesses were former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State George …
Susan Walsh/AP, Mark Wilson/Getty

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) sent a scathing letter Wednesday to the Intelligence Community’s Inspector General, calling Michael Atkinson’s recent testimony before Congress “insolent and obstructive” regarding his alleged backdating of federal “whistleblower” guidelines.

Cotton accused Atkinson of stonewalling the Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee while giving more details to the House Intelligence Committee — chaired by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), who has been a central player in the “whistleblower” complaint and his party’s impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump.

The Federalist’s Sean Davis explains the ongoing scandal over the complaint — including claims that Atkinson’s office eliminated the requirement for “whistleblowers” to have a first-hand account of any wrongdoing and “backdated,” or falsely documented, the change occurring earlier than it actually did:

Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community inspector general, told HPSCI lawmakers during a committee oversight hearing on Friday that the whistleblower forms and rules changes were made in September, even though the new forms and guidance, which were not uploaded to the ICIG’s website until September 24, state that they were changed in August. Despite having a full week to come up with explanations for his office’s decisions to secretly change its forms to eliminate the requirement for first-hand evidence and to backdate those changes to August, Atkinson refused to provide any explanation to lawmakers baffled by his behavior.

When pressed on the curious changes and attempts to obscure the timeline of his revisions, Atkinson refused to explain why the forms were backdated to August even though they were not made until September. The ICIG previously stated that it changed its forms and guidance “in response to recent press inquiries regarding” the anti-Trump complaint, of which Congress was not even notified until the second week of September. The new forms, which were not uploaded to the ICIG website until September 24, nonetheless stated that the revisions were made back in August.

Cotton, who sits on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, all but accused Atkinson of obstructing justice by dodging questions on the issue.

“Your disappointing testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee on September 26 was evasive to the point of being insolent and obstructive,” he wrote.

“Despite repeated questions, you refused to explain what you meant in your written report by ‘indicia of an arguable political bias on the part of the Complainant in favor of a rival political candidate,’” Cotton continued. “This information is, of course, unclassified and we were meeting in a closed setting. Yet you moralized about how you were duty bound not to share even a hint of this political bias with us.”

“But now I see media reports that you revealed to the House Intelligence Committee not only that the complainant is a registered Democrat, but also that he has a professional relationship with a Democratic presidential candidate,” Cotton wrote. “I’m dissatisfied, to put it mildly, with your refusal to answer my questions, while more fully briefing the three-ring circus that the House Intelligence Committee has become.”

This report comes from the Washington Examiner’s Byron York, who was told Atkinson testified to the House Intel Committee that the “whistleblower” had “some type of professional relationship” with a Democratic presidential candidate. Before this story broke, CNN’s Jake Tapper tried to dampen the “partisan” label that has stuck to this individual — reportedly a CIA official — by saying it was based only on his or her registration as a Democratic voter.

Cotton closed out his letter to Atkinson by posing a series of questions: “Did you or anyone subject to your control or influence share with CNN that the ‘arguable political bias’ was merely that the complainant is a registered Democrat?” he asked.

Cotton also asked Atkinson to disclose the Democratic presidential candidate with whom the complainant has a professional relationship and asked him to respond to the letter by 5 p.m. on Friday, October 11.

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