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Deposition of U.S. Homeland Security whistleblower unlikely before election, lawyer says

By Mark Hosenball | Fri, October 16, 2020 02:42 EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A whistleblower and former official at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, who alleges he was pressured to stop providing assessments of Russian electoral interference, will likely not be deposed by Congress before the Nov. 3 elections, his lawyer said on Friday.

Mark Zaid, a lawyer for former DHS intelligence chief Brian Murphy, told Reuters the deposition before a U.S. House of Representatives panel is being held up while DHS processes security clearances for Murphy's legal team.

"Given the current state of electoral politics, I would think it highly unlikely that any deposition would take place before the election," Zaid said. "But we are committed to ensuring Congress receives the relevant classified information regardless of who wins on November 3rd."

The delay, Zaid added, had effectively halted further disclosures by the whistleblower.

DHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did a spokesman for House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff, who originally scheduled a deposition with Murphy for late September.

Murphy said in a whistleblower complaint on Sept. 8 that President Donald Trump’s acting DHS chief Chad Wolf told him to stop providing assessments of the threat of Russian interference in the Nov. 3 election in part because it “made the President look bad.”

Wolf also asked Murphy to play down U.S. white supremacist activity, the complaint said. In both matters, Murphy said he refused to comply with Wolf’s instructions.

DHS denied Murphy's claims.

Zaid said that Murphy and his legal team were "willing to be patient but at some point that will be exhausted and we'll have to act." Litigation, he said, might be an avenue.

(Reporting By Mark Hosenball; Editing by Mary Milliken and Tom Brown)

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