WASHINGTON — A whistleblower is accusing top Trump administration homeland security officials of violating laws and policies by lying to Congress and manipulating intelligence reports to conform with President Donald Trump’s political agenda.
A written complaint by Brian Murphy, who was a top Department of Homeland Security intelligence analyst, accuses top DHS officials of blocking analysis of Russian election interference, watering down intelligence reports about corruption and violence fueling a refugee flow from Central America, and “modify(ing) assessments to ensure they matched up with the public comments by President Trump on the subject of ANTIFA and ‘anarchist’ groups.”
The complaint also says then-DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen gave false testimony to Congress in December 2018 about the numbers of suspected terrorists crossing the southern border. That allegation mirrors the findings of an NBC News report in January 2019, which determined that the Trump administration was misrepresenting the data on suspected terrorists crossing the southern border, claiming thousands when in fact there were almost none.
“The whistleblower reprisal complaint depicts a sustained and disturbing pattern of misconduct by senior Trump administration officials within the White House and DHS,” says a statement by House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff, D.-Calif., who released the complaint Wednesday afternoon.
Schiff added that the complaint “outlines grave and disturbing allegations that senior White House and Department of Homeland Security officials improperly sought to politicize, manipulate, and censor intelligence in order to benefit President Trump politically. This puts our nation and its security at grave risk.”
A DHS spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
According to the complaint, Murphy served from March 2018 until July 31, 2020, as principal deputy under secretary in the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis.
On Aug. 1, 2020, the complaint says, he was demoted to the role of assistant to the deputy under secretary for the DHS Management Division. The complaint says the demotion was in retaliation for the concerns he repeatedly raised.
A Marine Corps veteran and former FBI agent, Murphy was hired to play a key role in DHS’s intelligence collection and analysis operation, the complaint says.
The complaint says he made a series of internal complaints about actions taken by three top officials: former DHS Secretary Nielsen, Chad Wolf, who is serving as acting DHS secretary; and Ken Cuccinelli, the deputy DHS secretary.
In mid-May 2020, for example, the complaint says Wolf “instructed Mr. Murphy to cease providing intelligence assessments on the threat of Russian interference in the United States, and instead start reporting on interference activities by China and Iran.”
The Trump administration has sought to emphasize the role of China and Iran because those countries are assessed by intelligence agencies to prefer that Trump loses the election. But as NBC News has previously reported, officials briefed on the intelligence say only Russia is actively interfering in the election, trying to undermine Democrat Joe Biden and help Trump.
Murphy said Wolf’s instructions on Russia “specifically originated from White House National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien. Mr. Murphy informed Mr. Wolf he would not comply with these instructions, as doing so would put the country in substantial and specific danger.”
In July, the complaint says, Murphy was ordered to delay an intelligence report on Russian disinformation efforts. Wolf told Murphy the intelligence notification should be “held” because it “made the President look bad,” the complaint says. Murphy objected, the complaint says, “stating that it was improper to hold a vetted intelligence product for reasons for political embarrassment.”
Wolf then excluded Murphy from future meetings on the subject. The description of the complaint matches up with a report on Russian efforts to raise questions about Biden’s mental and physical health that was held up in July, as DHS acknowledged last week.
The complaint says Murphy repeatedly tried to set his bosses straight on the lack of terrorists crossing the southern border, but was rebuffed.
In March 2019, the complaint says, Murphy gave Nielsen documentation showing that no more than three known or suspected terrorists had crossed the southern border, “not 3,755 individuals she had previously attested to in her (Congressional) testimony on December 20, 2018.”
The complaint quotes Wolf as saying Nielsen should claim the details were classified “and deflect away from addressing the significant discrepancy in the data.”
It was Murphy’s “good faith belief that the testimony Secretary Nielsen delivered (to Congress) on March 6, 2019, regarding (known and suspected terrorists) again constituted a knowing and deliberate submission of false material information.”
In December 2019, the complaint says, Murphy attended a meeting with Cuccinelli and David Glawe, then the top DHS intelligence official, to discuss intelligence reports regarding conditions in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.
Cuccinelli “stated he wanted changes to the information outlining high levels of
corruption, violence, and poor economic conditions in the three respective countries,” adding that Cuccinelli “accused unknown ‘deep state intelligence analysts’ of compiling the intelligence information to undermine (President Trump’s) policy objectives with respect to asylum.”
Cuccinelli ordered Murphy and Glawe “to identify the names of the “deep state” individuals who compiled the intelligence reports and to either fire or reassign them immediately,” the complaint says. Murphy later told Glawe the instructions were illegal, an abuse of authority and improper administration of an intelligence program.
On the recent protests, the complaint says Murphy was instructed by Wolf and Cuccinelli “to modify intelligence assessments to ensure they matched up with the public comments by President Trump on the subject of ANTIFA and ‘anarchist’ groups.”
Murphy refused, the complaint says.
Schiff has subpoenaed him to appear for sworn closed-door testimony on Sept. 21.