WASHINGTON — The FBI recently sought to question the CIA whistleblower who filed a complaint over President Trump’s July 25 Ukraine call — a move that came after a vigorous internal debate within the bureau over how to respond to some of the issues raised by the complaint’s allegations and whether they needed to be more thoroughly investigated, according to sources familiar with the matter.
In late September, the Justice Department confirmed that Brian Benczkowski, the assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department’s criminal division, and an appointee of Trump, had reviewed the whistleblower’s detailed complaint the previous month and determined there was no violation of campaign finance laws by the president when he asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to open up an investigation into the gas company that once paid Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, to serve on its board.
As a result, Kerri Kupec, chief of public affairs, said the Justice Department determined that “no further action was warranted.”
But that decision, a Justice Department official said, was limited only to the question of potential campaign finance law violations and not to any other issues raised in the whistleblower complaint. “It was a very narrow issue,” the official said.
Some officials within the FBI, which received its own copy of the whistleblower’s complaint in early September, chafed at a Justice Department move they believed was aimed at shutting down any inquiry at all, especially into potential counterintelligence issues raised by the allegations, according to a former senior U.S intelligence official who has discussed the matter with current FBI counterintelligence agents.
There were “guys who wanted to run with it,” said the former senior official. “People were pissed off.”
Others in the FBI were wary and “didn’t want to touch [the whistleblower complaint] with a 10-foot pole because of the Russia investigation,” said this former senior official.
FBI counterintelligence officials were particularly concerned about the claims — detailed in the whistleblower’s complaint — that the president’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani and two of his associates may have been manipulated by Russian interests, said the former senior official.