For weeks, these two words have been the biggest
“open secret” in America — but media organisations
have refused to utter them.
By AP and staff writers
November 07, 2019 "Information
Clearing House" - President Donald Trump is
blasting the media for not reporting the name of a
person who has been identified in conservative
circles as the whistleblower who spurred the
impeachment inquiry. Yet Mr Trump has carefully
avoided using the name himself.
Exposing whistleblowers can be dicey, even for a
president. For one thing, it could be a
violation of federal law to identify the
whistleblower. While there’s little chance Mr
Trump could face charges, revealing the name
could give Democrats more impeachment fodder. It
could also prompt a backlash among some Senate
Republicans who have long defended
And, despite wanting the name
to be disclosed, Mr Trump sees some benefits to
keeping it secret. The anonymity makes it easier
for Mr Trump to undermine the credibility of the
person behind the complaint as well
as the complaint itself, according to three
officials and Republicans close to the White
House not authorised to publicly discuss private
conversations. It also allows him to bash the
media for supposedly protecting the
In recent weeks, a name has circulated in
conservative media of a man said to be the
whistleblower. The president’s son, Donald Trump
Jr., on Wednesday tweeted a link to a story on
the Breitbart website that used the name. He
also included the name in his tweet.
“Everyone knows who he is. CNN knows. The
Washington Post knows. The New York Times knows.
Congress knows. The White House knows. Even the
president knows who he is,” former CIA analyst Fred
Fleitz told the RealClearInvestigations website,
which last week identified the whistleblower.
“They’re hiding him,” he added. “They’re hiding him
because of his political bias.”
Paul Sperry wrote that the man’s
identity was an “open secret”, having
been bandied about in Washington and
online for weeks, and the website was
“disclosing the name because of the
public’s interest in learning details of
an effort to remove a sitting president
US whistleblower laws exist to protect the
identity and careers of people who bring forward
accusations of wrongdoing by government officials.
Lawmakers in both parties have historically backed
those protections. The Associated Press typically
does not reveal the identity of whistleblowers.
The identity of the whistleblower is almost a
moot point — much of the unnamed person’s August
complaint about Trump’s July 25 phone call with
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has been
corroborated and expanded upon by officials’
on-the-record, congressional testimony and the
reconstructed, partial transcript of the call
released by the White House.
In a statement shortly after Trump Jr.’s tweet,
the whistleblower’s attorneys warned that
“identifying any suspected name for the
whistleblower will place that individual and their
family at risk of serious harm”.
The statement by Andrew P. Bakaj and Mark S. Zaid
said, “Publication or promotion of a name shows the
desperation to deflect from the substance of the
whistleblower complaint. It will not relieve the
President of the need to address the substantive
allegations, all of which have been substantially
proven to be true.”
It came as Fox News
reported on social media posts by Mr Zaid from
2017 that a “coup has started” and that “impeachment
will follow ultimately”. In one post, Mr Zaid
remarked, “I predict @CNN will play a key role in @realDonaldTrump
not finishing out his full term as president.”
“The whistleblower’s lawyer gave away the game,”
Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh
told Fox News. “It was always the Democrats’ plan to
stage a coup and impeach President Trump and all
they ever needed was the right scheme. They whiffed
on Mueller so now they’ve settled on the perfectly
fine Ukraine phone call. This proves this was
orchestrated from the beginning.”
A number of Trump allies have counselled the
president not to unveil the whistleblower’s
identity. So in recent days Mr Trump has shifted to
a new tactic, denouncing the media for allegedly
protecting the whistleblower by refusing to identify
the person, allowing him to charge that the media is
in cahoots with Democrats and the “deep state” —
Trump opponents in the government.
The strategy is reminiscent of the one Mr Trump
used during special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia
probe, during which he derided the so-called deep
state investigators for allegedly plotting to bring
down a duly elected president. Mr Trump, on Twitter
and while talking to reporters, relentlessly painted
then-FBI director James Comey, agent Peter Strzok
and FBI lawyer Lisa Page as corrupt and
Though there’s no solid evidence that the Russia
probe suffered from any improper bias at its origin,
Ms Page and Mr Strzok, in a series of text messages,
revealed their dislike of Mr Trump, which the
president pointed to as proof of a plot against him.
With help from some allies, including Senator
Rand Paul at a Kentucky rally on Monday, Mr Trump
has moved to create a similar dynamic with the
whistleblower. Without providing evidence, Mr Trump
has painted the whistleblower as a liberal “Never
Trumper” and held up the person’s anonymity —
essential for protection — as some sort of nefarious
proof of a conspiracy with Democrats.
Much like his scattershot efforts to muddle the
narrative of the Mueller probe, often by questioning
the integrity and process of the investigation
itself rather than the facts, Mr Trump has been
looking to plant the seed of doubt about the Ukraine
matter with both his base and the GOP senators who
could decide his fate in an impeachment trial,
according to the officials and Republicans.
But if he identified the supposed whistleblower,
Mr Trump could risk antagonising some of those same
senators, who believe whistleblowers are important
for rooting out corruption. Advocates for
whistleblowers warn that stripping anonymity from
the person who made the Ukraine complaint would make
people across the government more reluctant to speak
up about wrongdoing.
In the context of an investigation, someone who
names or retaliates against a whistleblower could be
prosecuted for obstructing an investigation or
harassing a witness, said Tom Devine, legal director
for the Government Accountability Project.
But whistleblowers in the intelligence community,
like the one who reported the Ukraine call, lack
many of the protections provided to their
counterparts elsewhere in the government. “There are
some rights on paper, but in reality they are
extremely weak,” Mr Devine said.
In other parts of the government, whistleblowers
can take claims they have been retaliated against to
independent administrative agencies and,
potentially, federal courts. In the intelligence
agencies, complaints are handled internally. “The
way you do that is by going back to the agency that
retaliated against you to ask them to change their
minds,” Mr Devine said. There is a right of appeal
to the inspector general, whose work can be reviewed
a panel of auditors he appoints, he said.
Stephen Kohn, the chairman of the board of the
National Whistleblower Center, said it’s troubling
that prospects for protecting the whistleblower
really depend on Mr Trump.
“The only guarantee here is to hope the president
does his job” and prevents retaliation against him
in the first place, Mr Kohn said.
This article was originally published by "News.com"
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