Michael Atkinson, the Trump-appointed inspector general of the intelligence community, met Thursday morning with the House Intelligence Committee in a closed session to discuss the whistleblower complaint. Mr. Atkinson declined to tell lawmakers the substance of the complaint or whether it involves the president, but he did say it involves more than one episode and is based on a series of events, according to several people who attended or were briefed on the meeting.
Joseph Maguire, a retired Navy vice admiral serving as the acting director of national intelligence, is to appear before both the Senate and House intelligence committees next week about the complaint, though it remains unclear if he will be willing to divulge details about its underlying substance.
Stymied Democrats in Congress continued to mull potential avenues to obtain the complaint. Rep. Adam Schiff (D., Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said he was considering a lawsuit to obtain the complaint or withholding funding from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Mr. Schiff has accused Mr. Maguire of violating the law by not sending the complaint to Congress, as required under the federal whistleblower statute.
“It’s been very hard for the director of national intelligence to explain why he is the first ever in that position to withhold an urgent whistleblower complaint from Congress,” Mr. Schiff said Friday.
Mr. Maguire’s office consulted the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, which determined that the allegation didn’t meet the statutory definition of an “urgent concern” requiring reporting to the intelligence committees, the Justice Department said.
Typically, opinions from the OLC are seen as binding on the executive branch, legal experts said, and it remains unclear how or whether Mr. Maguire could transmit the complaint to lawmakers now.
Even before the debate over the whistleblower complaint, Democratic lawmakers had begun investigating interactions with Ukraine by the president and his lawyer. Earlier this month, the House Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Oversight committees sent letters to the White House and State Department seeking records of interactions involving the president and Mr. Giuliani and the Ukrainian government.
In the interview this month, Mr. Giuliani said he had sought in the spring to meet with Mr. Zelensky—at the time Ukraine’s president-elect—and planned a trip to Kiev to pressure the Ukrainian government to pursue two investigations: one into whether Ukraine, under its previous leader, had sought in 2016 to hurt the Trump campaign and bolster his opponent; and another into diplomatic efforts in the country by Mr. Biden, who is currently leading the Democratic presidential field.
Mr. Giuliani ultimately canceled that trip after his plan was made public. Mr. Trump was aware of the planned meeting, he said.
Mr. Biden as vice president made several trips to Ukraine to press the government to root out widespread corruption. That included seeking the ouster of former prosecutor general Viktor Shokin, who had investigated a private Ukrainian gas company, Burisma Group, of which Hunter Biden was a board member. Mr. Giuliani has suggested Mr. Biden’s motivation was to protect his son, a lawyer who has been involved in several investment and consulting firms, although Mr. Shokin had already completed his investigation of Burisma Group before he left office.
Yuriy Lutsenko, Ukraine’s prosecutor general at the time, told Bloomberg News in May he had no evidence of wrongdoing by Mr. Biden or his son.
In an interview Thursday evening, Mr. Giuliani said he wasn’t aware whether the whistleblower complaint related to Ukraine. But in a Twitter post later that evening, he defended the possibility that Mr. Trump had urged Mr. Zelensky to investigate his potential campaign opponent.
“A President telling a Pres-elect of a well known corrupt country he better investigate corruption that affects US is doing his job,” Mr. Giuliani wrote.
Mr. Giuliani said earlier this month that Mr. Trump likely would raise the Biden matter with Mr. Zelensky when they meet, saying the matter was “on his mind.” A senior administration official said Friday that the two would discuss how to expand energy cooperation and trade ties.
The Wall Street Journal