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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-NY) revealed last weekend that an intelligence community whistleblower has been stymied by the director of national intelligence while trying to push through a formal complaint about an undisclosed “urgent” matter. And on Wednesday night, the Washington Post broke a story citing anonymous officials claiming to reveal the explosive outlines of that claim — which reportedly centers on President Donald Trump and an unnamed foreign leader.

“Trump’s interaction with the foreign leader included a ‘promise’ that was regarded as so troubling that it prompted an official in the U.S. intelligence community to file a formal whistleblower complaint with the inspector general for the intelligence community, said the officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly,” the Post reported.

The Post did not share further details about the promise or the foreign leader, though it said one former official claimed the communications occurred over the phone.

Dan Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, has refused to turn over the official complaint to Congress, citing a higher authority directing him not to and claiming a protected privilege.

However, Schiff has argued that Maguire’s refusal violates the law. The intelligence inspector general determined the whistleblower’s complaint was credible and of “urgent concern,” which triggers reporting to the proper congressional oversight bodies. Inspector General Michael Atkinson went to the House and Senate intelligence committees to notify them about the existence of the whistleblower, even while he was unable to give any details about the actual complaint.

When Schiff went public with the dispute, many immediately assumed the issue regarded the president or his inner circle. The president is the only official directly superior to the director of national intelligence, and thus the only plausible higher authority that could order the DNI around. The claim of “privilege” and the assertion that the complaint concerned “conduct by someone outside of the Intelligence Community” also suggested the president could be involved.

The Post reported that the complaint was filed on Aug. 12 and that “the president has spoken with at least five foreign leaders in the preceding five weeks”:

Among them was a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin that the White House initiated on July 31. Trump also received at least two letters from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during the summer, describing them as “beautiful” messages. In June, Trump said publicly that he was opposed to certain CIA spying operations against North Korea. Referring to a Wall Street Journal report that the agency had recruited Kim’s half-brother, Trump said, “I would tell him that would not happen under my auspices.”

“This is now an overwhelmingly urgent and frightening matter,” said Susan Hennessey, executive editor of Lawfare, in response to the report. “Congress must be provided absolutely all of the relevant information, immediately.”

“Yet another set of troubling arguments – confidentiality & privilege – that raise serious challenges to Congressional oversight,” said MSNBC legal analyst Maya Wiley of the refusal to hand over the complaint.

Poll: Most Parents Oppose Rapid School Reopening

Numerous local school systems around the country are plowing ahead with plans to resume in-person instruction despite growing evidence that children are just as capable of spreading the coronavirus as adults.

Classes were set to begin on Monday in Baker County, Florida. Masks for students will be optional, not required. "It looks like it's back to normal this morning, honestly," a local television reporter observed as parents dropped their kids off in the morning. Many students wore no face coverings.

The Trump administration and the GOP have pushed for full reopening of schools for months."Schools in our country should be opened ASAP," Donald Trump tweeted in May. "Much very good information now available."

"SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!" he reiterated on July 6.

"The science and data is clear: children can be safe in schools this fall, and they must be in school this fall," demanded Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) on Aug. 1.

"I believe our schools can, and should rise to the occasion of re-opening for in-person education this fall," agreed Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) two days later.

"The CDC and Academy of Pediatrics agree: We can safely get students back in classrooms," tweeted House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) last Tuesday.

But while Scalise, Mike Pence, and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have all cited the American Academy of Pediatrics in their arguments for reopening, a new study by the group and the Children's Hospital Association raises red flags about how safe that will be.

Their report found 338,982 reported coronavirus cases in children as of July 30 in the United States. Between July 16 and July 30, the nation saw a 40% increase — 97,078 new infected children.

Last week, a high school student in an Atlanta suburb posted a photo online showing few students wearing masks in a crowded school hallway. Since that time, at least six students and three adult employees in the school have reportedly contracted the coronavirus, and the school temporarily has switched to online classes.

Another Georgia school district has already seen at least 13 students and staff members test positive since reopening a week ago.

A recent study in South Korea found that children aged ten and older spread the coronavirus at the same rates adults do. A separate study in Chicago suggested young kids might also be effective spreaders.

These contradict the false claims made by Trump and his administration that kids have an "amazing" near immunity to COVID-19.

"If you look at children, children are almost — and I would almost say definitely, but almost immune from this disease, so few. They've got stronger, hard to believe, and I don't know how you feel about it, but they have much stronger immune systems than we do somehow for this," Trump told Fox News on Wednesday.

"You got to open the schools. They have a stronger immune system even than you have or I have," he told Barstool Sports on July 23. "It's amazing. You look at the percentage, it's a tiny percentage of one percent. And in that one case, I mean, I looked at a couple of cases. If you have diabetes, if you have, you know, problems with something, but the kids are in great shape." Children have made up nearly nine percent of all cases, even with schools mostly closed.

And DeVos incorrectly said in a July 16 interview, "More and more studies show that kids are actually stoppers of the disease and they don't get it and transmit it themselves."

In early July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines for how schools could operate more safely during the pandemic.

Trump publicly ridiculed the guidelines, dismissing them as "very tough & expensive" and "very impractical."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.