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Top lawyer for intelligence community to leave post

Special Report: Trump acquitted in final impeachment vote

The top lawyer for the intelligence community, who played an integral role in the decision to keep from Congress the whistleblower complaint that sparked the impeachment inquiry into President Trump is leaving his post, CBS News has learned.

Jason Klitenic, general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, will step down from his position next month and return to the private sector, the office, which oversees the 17 intelligence agencies, said. Klitenic has served as the top lawyer for the intelligence community since August 2018 after he was unanimously confirmed by the Senate.

Klitenic's departure comes alongside the looming March 11 deadline for Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire to either be nominated for the position formally by Mr. Trump or replaced.

The intelligence lawyer was thrust into the spotlight in September after he, after consultation with the Justice Department, said a complaint filed by a whistleblower with the intelligence community inspector general detailing Mr. Trump's dealings with Ukraine did not have to be shared with Congress.

Federal law requires the inspector general to investigate any report of "urgent concern" by an intelligence community employee and determine within two weeks whether the complaint "appears credible." If it is, then the intelligence community's internal watchdog must report the complaint to the director of national intelligence, who has seven calendar days to forward the report to the congressional Intelligence Committees.

While the whistleblower's complaint detailing Mr. Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was forwarded to Maguire after the inspector general deemed it "urgent," Maguire refused to transmit it to Congress.

In a letter to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, Klitenic wrote the complaint sent to acting director of national intelligence didn't meet the definition of "urgent concern.'"

The complaint, he wrote "concerned conduct by someone outside the Intelligence Community and did not relate to any 'intelligence activity' under the DNI's supervision."

The withholding of the whistleblower complaint prompted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to launch the impeachment inquiry into Mr. Trump in September. The report was then sent to Congress, and the House Intelligence Committee released an unclassified version of the whistleblower complaint.

Klitenic is also among the ODNI officials interviewed by the Senate Intelligence Committee as part of that panel's ongoing inquiry into the handling of the whistleblower complaint, according to a committee aide.  

Klitenic was a partner at Holland & Knight before joining the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and also was the first deputy general counsel of the Department of Homeland Security and deputy associate attorney general of the Department of Justice.

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