WASHINGTON - The acting director of national intelligence threatened to resign over concerns that the White House might attempt to force him to stonewall Congress when he testifies Thursday about an explosive whistleblower complaint about the president, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with the matter.
The revelation reflects the extraordinary tensions between the White House and the nation's highest-ranking intelligence official over a matter that has triggered impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.
The officials said that Joseph Maguire, who was thrust into the top intelligence post last month, warned the White House that he was not willing to withhold information from Congress, where he is scheduled to testify in open and closed hearings on Thursday.
Maguire denied that he had done so. In a statement, Maguire said that "at no time have I considered resigning my position since assuming this role on Aug. 16, 2019. I have never quit anything in my life, and I am not going to start now. I am committed to leading the Intelligence Community to address the diverse and complex threats facing our nation."
The White House also disputed the account. "This is actually not true," White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said in a tweet.
But other officials said that Maguire had pushed the White House to make an explicit legal decision on whether it was going to assert executive privilege over the whistleblower complaint, which centers on a call that Trump made with the leader of Ukraine in late July.
After these statements were issued, Washington Post Executive Editor Martin Baron said, "We stand by the story."
The current and former officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter, said Maguire had pushed the White House to make an explicit legal decision on whether it would assert executive privilege over the whistleblower complaint, which centers on a call that Trump made with the leader of Ukraine in late July.
Maguire has been caught in the middle of a fight between Congress and the executive branch over the contents of the whistleblower report since it reached his office late last month.
He has at times expressed his displeasure to White House counsel Pat Cipollone and others that the White House had put him in the untenable position of denying the material to Congress over a claim that it did not fall within his jurisdiction as leader of the intelligence community.
The rough contents of Trump's call were released by the White House on Wednesday, showing that Trump repeatedly pressured Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to pursue investigations that might yield political dirt against Trump's adversaries, including former vice president Joe Biden.
Maguire became the national intelligence acting director last month after the resignations of previous director Daniel Coats and Trump's refusal to allow the deputy director, Sue Gordon, to step into the senior job.
Since the whistleblower controversy erupted earlier this month, Maguire has been the target of criticism from Democratic lawmakers who accuse him of blocking the complaint from being transmitted to Congress.
It was unclear whether Maguire's threat had forced the White House to acquiesce and allow him to testify without constraint. But officials said Maguire has pursued the opportunity to meet with lawmakers to defend his actions and integrity.
In his only public statement on the matter, issued Tuesday evening, Maguire said, "In light of recent reporting on the whistleblower complaint, I want to make clear that I have upheld my responsibility to follow the law every step of the way."
“I am committed to protecting whistleblowers and ensuring every complaint is handled appropriately,” Maguire added. “I look forward to continuing to work with the Administration and Congress to find a resolution regarding this important matter.”