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Founding Partner Debra D'Agostino Discusses DHS Whistleblower Allegation with Washington Examiner

Written by: Federal Practice Group
Written by: Federal Practice Group

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 Top Trump officials charge Democrats behind DHS whistleblower allegation

September 09, 2020 05:29 PM

Two senior Trump administration officials suspect Democrats are the hidden hand behind a Department of Homeland Security official’s claim that agency leaders manipulated internal intelligence reports to match up with false statements President Trump made about antifa and anarchists.

Brian Murphy, the acting undersecretary who was recently booted from the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis, is attempting to save face amid a congressional investigation, both officials told the Washington Examiner Wednesday afternoon. They separately said that they were concerned that the sudden cooperation between Murphy and congressional Democrats may have more to do with Democrats trying to take down the Trump administration two months out from the election than rectifying a smaller matter of how Murphy carried out his job following other complaints.

"Senate Dems began poking around late last year and early this year with questions to DHS with regard to their whistleblower policies. Never smelled right," a senior official wrote.

CNN reported earlier Wednesday that in a written statement to the House Intelligence Committee, Murphy accused acting Secretary Chad Wolf and acting U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Director Ken Cuccinelli of ordering intelligence officials to modify internal reports so that they back up Trump's claims on liberal movements and far-left threats. Murphy's statement comes weeks after he was accused of improperly spying on two reporters covering the violent protests in Portland this summer.

"DHS consistently received complaints about Brian Murphy’s inability to manage his office and handle classified information, which is why he was ultimately removed," said the other senior administration official. "Predictably, he’s disgruntled and trying to distract the public away from the investigation into his own misconduct by lying about the department."

This source claimed that House Democrats are "working together" with their Senate colleagues, though he did not specify the motive for doing so.

Debra D’Agostino, founding partner of Washington-based Federal Practice Group and head of its federal employment law team, said Murphy's removal from his post "appears to be illegal retaliation."

"In Murphy’s complaint to the DHS [inspector general], he alleged that he refused to take actions that he reasonably believed were illegal, and he made disclosures concerning abuse of authority – both of which are protected by the Whistleblower Protection Act," D'Agostino wrote in an email. "Given this, the timing of Murphy’s removal from his position appears to be illegal retaliation, but this should be the least of Acting Secretary Wolf’s and Acting Deputy Cuccinelli’s concerns — in addition to [GAO's] finding that neither are even lawfully serving in their roles — given the nature of Murphy's allegations."

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff announced on Wednesday a hearing on Sept. 21 in which Murphy will testify about his allegations against his two former bosses. Schiff's sudden willingness to hear and publicize Murphy's account comes a month after he said that he was "concerned that Murphy may have provided incomplete and potentially misleading information to Committee."

DHS spokesman Alexei Woltornist spoke out Wednesday evening to say, "We flatly deny" Murphy's claim.

"DHS looks forward to the results of any resulting investigation, and we expect it will conclude that no retaliatory action was taken against Mr. Murphy," Woltornist said in a statement. "As Acting Secretary Wolf outlined in his State of the Homeland Address today, DHS is working to address all threats to the homeland, regardless of ideology. The Acting Secretary is focused on thwarting election interference from any foreign powers and attacks from any extremist group."

by Anna Giaritelli, Homeland Security Reporter

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