SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:
An official at the Department of Homeland Security says he was told to stop reporting on the Russian threat to the U.S. election because it would make President Trump look bad. Brian Murphy, the former head of the intelligence branch of DHS, makes the accusation in a formal whistleblower complaint that cites the acting head of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf. The whistleblower's attorney, Mark Zaid, joins me now.
MARK ZAID: Thank you. I appreciate you having me.
PFEIFFER: Mark, what more can you tell us about the allegation we just mentioned, that Brian Murphy says he was told to stop reporting on Russian threats to the U.S. election?
ZAID: Well, a lot of it in the meat, unfortunately, is classified, which means I don't even have it at this stage. But we intend to be able to present that in a classified forum both to the DHS inspector general as well as to any of the oversight committees on the Hill. But this, basically, is the same type of situation we've had numerous times over this administration and, frankly, in prior administrations, where there are allegations of politicization of intelligence, which is something we never want to see.
PFEIFFER: Emphasizing some things and deemphasizing others.
ZAID: Yes, absolutely. And this particular allegation was that Mr. Murphy was asked to use intelligence information in a manner that would make Trump - President Trump look good versus making him look bad. And that was something that he declined to do. And as a result, we allege retaliation against him - unlawful retaliation.
PFEIFFER: Your client Brian Murphy was removed from his job last month amid criticism of his office's role in the civil unrest in Portland, Ore. There were allegations that dossiers were being collected of protesters and journalists. Did Murphy internally raise the concerns detailed in his whistleblower complaint before he was removed from his position last month?
ZAID: Oh, yes, absolutely. Some of these literally date back a couple of years. But the very open protected disclosures were long before that reporting that may have led or contributed to his removal. I'll note, in fact, we say in the complaint that the acting secretary, Mr. Wolf, who's now the nominee, indicated to Mr. Murphy that he did not believe that the intelligence office was compiling these dossiers and that that was a misreporting of folks. In fact, what they were trying to do was to look at how the Russians were using U.S. and other reporting and trying to create it into a disinformation tactic to undermine the U.S., especially as we come closer to our elections. Why publicly the department did not defend Mr. Murphy is part of the retaliation allegations that will be looked at.
PFEIFFER: Does your client, Brian Murphy, say that his concerns - the concerns he raised within the department were adequately addressed?
ZAID: They were never adequately addressed. In fact, most of the time, they were never addressed at all, which is part of the problem. You know, there's only so many ways, when you're at such a senior level, that you can raise your concerns. And he did so to the leader - you know, Mr. Wolf, as the acting secretary of Homeland Security.
PFEIFFER: Whenever a whistleblower complaint is filed, a natural question is whether this is a case of a disgruntled employee raising criticisms after the fact. I'm sure your client will face that. What's his response to that?
ZAID: No doubt - and, you know, this is what I do for a living in representing whistleblowers. This is something that Mr. Murphy, who was a career federal employee, was a longtime special agent of the FBI - that he basically worked, you know, within the department doing things the right way, the lawful way. And when it wasn't taken seriously enough, then he took this next step. And we will let the investigations, whether done internally at the department or externally with Congress - let the investigations determine what the true facts are. And we welcome it.
PFEIFFER: That's Mark Zaid, attorney for DHS whistleblower Brian Murphy.
Mark, thank you.
ZAID: Thank you.
PFEIFFER: National security adviser Robert O'Brien told Fox News tonight that the complaint is, quote, "false." And in a statement, White House spokeswoman Sarah Matthews said, Ambassador O'Brien has never sought to dictate the intelligence community's focus on threats to the integrity of our elections or on any other topic. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.