Intel Watchdog Who Vetted Whistleblower Complaint Tied to Top Lawyer in Democrat Impeachment Effort

By Ivan Pentchoukov
Ivan Pentchoukov
Ivan Pentchoukov
Ivan is the national editor of The Epoch Times. He has reported for The Epoch Times on a variety of topics since 2011.
January 13, 2020 Updated: January 14, 2020

The U.S. intelligence community’s inspector general (ICIG), who reviewed the anonymous whistleblower complaint that triggered the House Democratic-led impeachment effort, previously served under then-acting Assistant Attorney General Mary McCord, who herself worked as the top outside counsel supporting the impeachment effort.

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the ranking Republican member of the House Intelligence Committee, highlighted the connection in an interview with Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo on Jan. 11.

“This ICIG actually has connections—was a lawyer for—some of the very people that were involved in the FISA abuse scam,” Nunes told Bartiromo, referring to the recently confirmed FBI and Justice Department failures in applications to spy on a former Trump campaign associate under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

Prior to his confirmation as ICIG, Michael Atkinson served as the senior counsel to McCord, who was then the assistant attorney general at the Department of Justice, according to a questionnaire (pdf) that Atkinson submitted to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

McCord, who left her post in May 2017, now serves as the legal director at the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection and is a visiting law professor at Georgetown University. In addition to these positions, she has been listed as the top outside attorney for House Democrats in key legal fights tied to impeachment, according to Politico.

Her transition from working in the Trump administration to pushing to upend it comes as no surprise, given her public statements. McCord told a panel at the Brookings Institution in 2018 that she left the administration because she felt she couldn’t “actively undermine” Trump administration policies. She added that “others have chosen a different course.”

McCord didn’t respond to a request by The Epoch Times for comment.

Shortly after the whistleblower’s complaint became public, McCord publicly endorsed the substance of the document, based solely on her high regard for Atkinson.

“As soon as I saw that he had recommended it be sent to Congress, that’s all I needed to know it was legit,” McCord told CNN.

Although there’s no public evidence that McCord interacted with Atkinson regarding the whistleblower complaint, the link between the two is significant because the whistleblower contacted the office of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) prior to submitting a formal complaint to Atkinson.

While contact between whistleblowers and oversight committees is routine, the impeachment whistleblower failed to disclose his or her prior contact with Schiff’s office on the complaint form. Schiff himself went on to mislead the public by stating that his office hadn’t been in contact with the whistleblower, before later admitting the opposite to be true.

Nunes made the comment about Atkinson’s connections shortly after criticizing the ICIG for not providing sufficient answers and documents to House Intelligence Committee Republicans who are investigating the origins of the whistleblower complaint. Central to the inquiry is the change that Atkinson made to the whistleblower complaint form, which removed a requirement that complainants submit only first-hand information.

Atkinson made the revision after the whistleblower submitted the complaint using the old form, which expressly prohibited the use of second-hand information. The impeachment whistleblower’s complaint consisted almost entirely of second-hand claims.

Nunes sent a letter (pdf) to Atkinson on Jan. 11, requesting answers to a battery of questions related to the complaint form and other issues related to the anonymous whistleblower. The request is a follow-up to one that Republicans submitted in September last year.

In the interview with Bartiromo on Jan. 11, Nunes noted that House Intelligence Committee Democrats have yet to release the transcript of Atkinson’s interview, making it the only transcript from the impeachment hearings to not be released to the public.

“Everything about the genesis of the whistleblower complaint was abnormal—from the whistleblower’s secret coordination with Schiff’s staff to the ICIG’s handling of the complaint—and we’re trying to get to the bottom of it,” Jack Langer, the spokesman for Nunes, told The Epoch Times.

The ICIG declined comment.

Ivan is the national editor of The Epoch Times. He has reported for The Epoch Times on a variety of topics since 2011.