Out gay Congressmember Sean Patrick Maloney from New York’s Hudson Valley vigorously questioned Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire during a public hearing on September 26 over his actions in response to an explosive whistleblower complaint accusing President Donald Trump of using American taxpayer dollars to seek political favors from a foreign power and then trying to cover it up.
The exchange came during a House Intelligence Committee hearing just hours after the complained was released publically in the midst of a rapidly mushrooming scandal that has engulfed Washington. The crisis has escalated calls for impeachment of the president, even among previously wavering Democrats in red districts who had held back on the issue of impeachment for fear of backlash from conservative voters back home.
Maloney interrogated Maguire, a Brooklyn-born decorated military veteran who just assumed his current role in August, about his decision to consult with the White House and the Department of Justice — instead of Congress, as required by law — about the whistleblower’s complaint. Maloney also pressed to learn whether Maguire spoke to Trump about the memorandum, which outlined damning details about the president’s refusal to hand over nearly $400 million in congressionally authorized aid to Ukraine until he received assurances that the nation’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, would probe Hunter Biden, the son of former vice president and 2020 presidential contender Joe Biden.
The bombshell report further alleged that the Trump administration sought to cover up details of his international political maneuvering by transferring records of the July 25 call with Zelensky to secure computer server channels reserved for national security purposes. The report also cited Attorney General William Barr as someone who “appears to be involved as well”— and that was of particular interest among Democrats on the committee.
“Sir, I have no question about your character; I’ve read your bio,” said Maloney, who is the first and only out gay member of Congress from New York and the only out member of the House Intelligence Committee. He then asked Maguire if he saw “any conflicts here” by turning to the White House and DOJ first.
Maguire responded, “Congressman Maloney, I have a lot of leadership experience. I do. And as you said, it came to me very early on in this. The fact that I am the acting DNI and I was still using Garmin to get to work, that this came to my attention involving the president of the United States and the important matter of this, in the past, as I said before, I have always worked with legal counsel. Because of the magnitude of this decision, sir, as a naval officer for years, I thought it would be prudent.”
Maloney repeatedly endeavored to pry answers from Maguire about whether he had spoken to the president about the complaint.
“Congressman Maloney, my conversation with the president of the United States is privileged,” DNI Maguire responded.
Maloney became increasingly frustrated as he continued to ask Maguire, to no avail, to stop dancing around the question and answer with a “yes or no.”
“I speak to the president about a lot of things and anything that I say to the president of the United States in any forum is privileged and confidential,” Maguire uttered.
House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff then posed the same question, telling Maguire that answering the question would not “betray any privilege,” and, yet again, Maguire stuck to the same basic response.
On September 24, Maloney joined more than 200 of his congressional colleagues in supporting impeachment proceedings. The voters in his district went for Trump in 2016 after supporting President Barack Obama in the previous two election cycles. Maloney, first elected in 2012, faced close contests in his first several races, though he has bested his GOP opponents by 11 percentage points in each of his past two reelections.