US House panel asked to postpone whistleblower deposition on Homeland Security

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U.S. House panel asked to postpone whistleblower deposition on Homeland Security
DHS Acting DHS Secretary Wolf attends Trump law enforcement event at the White House in Washington

By Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A congressional panel has been asked to postpone a closed door deposition with a former Department of Homeland Security (DHS) intelligence chief because of delays in obtaining access to classified records and approval of security clearances for his lawyers.

But Adam Schiff, the Democrat who chairs the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, said on Friday his panel was “rejecting the Department’s attempt to limit the scope of its investigation” into the DHS intelligence office, which would-be witness Brian Murphy formerly headed.

Murphy said in a whistleblower complaint on Sept. 8 that President Donald Trump’s acting DHS chief Chad Wolf told him to stop providing assessments of the threat of Russian interference in the Nov. 3 election in part because it “made the President look bad.” Wolf also asked Murphy to play down U.S. white supremacist activity, the complaint said. In both matters, Murphy said he refused to comply with Wolf’s instructions.

Murphy’s lawyer Mark Zaid said on Friday that Murphy’s deposition with the committee booked for Monday “is going to be rescheduled.”

A committee official said the panel had not rescheduled the deposition at this time, but that DHS was continuing to impose needless requirements on Mr. Murphy for the purpose of delay.

Zaid said DHS was working on arranging security clearances for legal counsel. “DHS needs to allow Mr. Murphy to have immediate access to the relevant classified information that supports his whistleblower complaint,” Zaid said.

A DHS spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Schiff said in a letter to DHS that it “should reverse its position immediately and grant Mr. Murphy access to these classified records prior to his deposition.”

He added that he expected DHS to provide his committee with “responsive records, including classified documents” and said any DHS effort to prevent the witnesses from fully preparing for testimony would be “viewed as obstruction” of the committee’s investigation.

Congress is scheduled to meet for two weeks more before recessing for the election, so it is unclear when Murphy’s deposition will be taken by the Democratic-controlled House committee. The Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee also is looking into Murphy’s complaint.

(Reporting By Mark Hosenball; editing by Grant McCool and Daniel Wallis)

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