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Intelligence chief Joseph Maguire, grilled in Congress over whistleblower, calls Tampa home

The retired vice admiral and Navy SEAL helped raise millions for wounded warriors as leader of a Tampa-based foundation.

TAMPA — The man who testified before Congress on Thursday about a whistleblower complaint against President Donald Trump is a retired vice admiral from Tampa who raised millions of dollars here to help former commandos before leaving last year to join the intelligence community in Washington.

Joseph Maguire, acting Director of National Intelligence, testified more than three hours before the House Intelligence Committee, which summoned him to explain why he had not turned over the whistleblower complaint sooner.

RELATED STORY: Trump’s counterterrorism pick is Joe Maguire of Tampa, now helping commando families

The complaint said that in a phone call with the president of the Ukraine, Trump misused his office for personal gain and endangered national security.

Maguire told the committee Thursday that he was bound at first by opinions from the White House’s Office of Legal Counsel, which found that the phone call was subject to executive privilege and did not fall under provisions of the Whistleblower Protection Act.

In addition, Maguire testified, the complaint did not meet the standard of “urgent concern” spelled out in the act.

The act requires notification about complaints to congressional oversight committees.

Still, Maguire noted, Trump eventually agreed that the complaint should be publicly released and Maguire’s office did so this week.

Maguire also expressed his support for the act and said he believes the whistelblower in this case has “acted in good faith throughout” — a position at odds with a statement attributed to Trump on Thursday.

The Los Angeles Times and New York Times quoted the president saying at a private event that people who gave information to the whistleblower were “close to a spy,” and that the United States should “handle” them like it did “in the old days.

Also this week, Maguire issued a statement denying media reports that he planned to resign his position over the whistleblower complaint.

“At no time have I considered resigning my position since assuming this role on Aug. 16, 2019," Maguire said. “I have never quit anything in my life, and I am not going to start now.”

Maguire, whose 26 years in the military included service as a Navy SEAL, was living in Tampa when he was asked last year by then Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats to head up the National Counterterrorism Center.

Maguire assumed the role of acting national intelligence director a month ago with the resignation of Coats and his No. 2, Susan Gordon, and after Trump’s first nominee, U.S. Rep. John Ratcliffe of Texas, withdrew from consideration amid scrutiny of his qualifications for the job.

At the time he was tapped by Coats, Maguire was serving as chief executive of the Tampa-based Special Operations Warrior Foundation, helping raise tens of millions of dollars for wounded, ill and injured commandos and their survivors.

His nomination drew praise from military authorities and elected officials contact by the Times in mid-2018, including then-Tampa mayor Bob Buckhorn.

Speaking of Maguire’s work with the foundation, Buckhorn said, “In spite of no longer wearing a uniform, Joe made sure that nobody was left behind, especially the children and families of those who paid the ultimate price.”

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.