Heather Cox Richardson reminded us that yesterday was the one year anniversary of Trump's phone call to the president of the Ukraine - which eventually led to his impeachment.
Her article illustrates the dangers of having "acting" directors instead of permanent office holders.
While Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, who was on the call, told his superiors what he had heard, someone else filed a whistleblower complaint. That complaint went to Trump's own appointee at the Intelligence Community's Inspector General's office, Michael Atkinson. Atkinson agreed that the matter was both "credible" and "urgent" and that House and Senate Intelligence Committees must be informed, as required by law.
(Trump fired Atkinson on April 3, 2020).
Atkinson followed the law, passing the information to the acting Director of National Intelligence, Joseph Maguire, on August 26. Maguire had only taken office ten days before, on August 16, after Trump's first DNI, Dan Coats, and Coates's second-in-command, Sue Gordon, both resigned. As an acting director, rather than a Senate-confirmed leader, Maguire served at the pleasure of the president.
Maguire was supposed to scour the whistleblower complaint of all classified information before forwarding to Congress by September 2, as the law required. But, instead, Maguire took the complaint to the Department of Justice, headed by Trump loyalist Attorney General William Barr. On his advice, Maguire decided not to turn over the information to Congress.
On September 10, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff (D-CA) demanded that acting DNI Maguire produce it. Maguire refused.
(In February 2020 Trump rebuked Maguire when he heard that one of Maguire's subordinates, an expert on election security, had briefed members of House Intelligence Committee on Russian preference involvement in the 2020 election. Members of the committee were told Russia appeared to prefer Trump over Democratic candidates and could seek to act on that preference as they had done in 2016 election to boost his candidacy. Trump then announced he would be replacing Maguire, who resigned on February 21, 2020, and was immediately replaced with Richard Grenell as acting chief. Grenell lasted from February 20 until May 26, 2020, and was replaced by John Ratcliffe, who actually got confirmed by the Senate on May 21. Ratcliffe was considered one of the most conservative members of Congress. In 2016, The Heritage Foundation ranked Ratcliffe as the most conservative Texas legislator in Congress and second-most conservative legislator in the country.)
Since then, the House impeached Trump but the Senate exonerated him; Vindman is gone; Atkinson is gone; Maguire is gone. But as Trump has increasingly consolidated his power, Americans have woken up and taken to heart that democracy is not a spectator sport.