CBS News has reviewed documents that show the anonymous whistleblower reached out to the intelligence community watchdog on October 8 to clarify the nature of his or her contact with Democratic majority staff of the House Intelligence Committee before the complaint was filed.
According to the “Memorandum of Investigative Activity,” provided to House and Senate intelligence Committee leadership by the intelligence community inspector general (ICIG), dated October 18 and documenting the October 8 outreach, the whistleblower felt that “[b]ased on getting guidance on a procedural question, and that no substance of the actual disclosure was discussed, COMPLAINANT did not feel, based on the way the form question was worded, that it was necessary to check that box.”
“That box” refers to the whistleblower disclosure form, which requires a detailed accounting of who is aware of the complaint. The box for “Congress or congressional committee(s)” was left blank by the whistleblower.
The timeline matters because the whistleblower complaint that set the impeachment inquiry of President Trump into motion was filed in August, became public in September and by October, the early contact with Democratic Chairman Adam’s Schiff staff was revealed. Republicans have seized on apparent discrepancies because they say they go to the earliest handling of the complaint, as well as to the actions and credibility of the whistleblower, while Democrats have downplayed the significance.
On October 2, the New York Times first reported that Schiff had “learned about the outlines” of the whistleblower’s concerns before the complaint was submitted to the ICIG, citing a spokesman, as well as current and former American officials.
Patrick Boland, spokesman for House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, said in a statement at the time, “Consistent with the Committee’s longstanding procedures, Committee staff appropriately advised the whistleblower to contact an Inspector General and to seek legal counsel. At no point did the Committee review or receive the complaint in advance.”
According to the records reviewed by CBS News, the whistleblower reported to the ICIG investigator that the committee staffer advised, “‘Do it right, hire a lawyer, and contact the ICIG.’ So that is what the COMPLAINANT did. At the time, COMPLAINANT did not even know what the ICIG was.”
The whistleblower, who spoke by telephone with the ICIG’s office on October 8, addressed “news reports and questions regarding how the Office of the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community (ICIG) Hotline forms were completed.”
The ICIG went on to say that the whistleblower “did not check that he/she had reported the matter to the Intelligence Committees as had been reported in the news, was because no substance was given…”
Separately, on the issue of potential congressional testimony, the whistleblower expressed a preference for written questions from the Senate or House Intelligence Committees. According to the records, the whistleblower “does not wish to testify in person” and “does not believe there was any point for him/her to come forward given all that has come out in the news. He/she is not interested in being part of a political show.”
The whistleblower, according to the ICIG, believed that “much of the information provided by him/her at the time of the urgent concern disclosure has now been overcome by more detailed information coming out in the press, or recent text message releases, which are beyond his/her original knowledge. Some of the dates of information being disclosed in the news do not match up with Complainant’s urgent concern disclosure.”
That “text” reference likely refers to messages submitted to Congress which illustrated attempts to broker a White House meeting between Zelensky and Mr. Trump, as well as issues surrounding military aid.
The October 8 call is not the Office of the Inspector General’s only contact with the whistleblower — the ICIG, according to the letter, “has remained in contact with the Whistleblower for other reasons,” offering to help ensure the individual’s “personal safety and offering to facilitate any interviews…with the Congressional oversight committees.”
Sources familiar with Atkinson’s closed-door deposition in October tell CBS News that Atkinson said he did not investigate the contact between Schiff’s committee and the whistleblower because he first learned about it from the media. The transcript of Atkinson’s deposition has not been released.
Stefan Becket and Olivia Gazis contributed to this report.
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