More Bad Whistleblower News For Trump

A second potential whistleblower and an apparent criminal referral from the CIA's top lawyer make a bad week even worse for Donald Trump.

The New York Times is reporting that a second official is apparently considering filing a whistleblower complaint regarding the President’s July 25th phone call with the President of Ukraine, but it may not be necessary:

WASHINGTON — A second intelligence official who was alarmed by President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine is weighing whether to file his own formal whistle-blower complaint and testify to Congress, according to two people briefed on the matter.

The official has more direct information about the events than the first whistle-blower, whose complaint that Mr. Trump was using his power to get Ukraine to investigate his political rivals touched off an impeachment inquiry. The second official is among those interviewed by the intelligence community inspector general to corroborate the allegations of the original whistle-blower, one of the people said.

The inspector general, Michael Atkinson, briefed lawmakers privately on Friday about how he substantiated the whistle-blower’s account. It was not clear whether he told lawmakers that the second official was considering filing a complaint.

A new complaint, particularly from someone closer to the events, would potentially add further credibility to the account of the first whistle-blower, a C.I.A. officer who was detailed to the National Security Council at one point. He said that he relied on information from more than a half-dozen American officials to compile his allegations about Mr. Trump’s campaign to solicit foreign election interference that could benefit him politically.

Other evidence has emerged to back the whistle-blower’s claim. A reconstructed transcript of a July call between Mr. Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky released by the White House also showed Mr. Trump pressuring Ukraine. Mr. Trump appeared to believe that its release would quell the push for impeachment, but it only emboldened House Democrats.

Because the second official has met with Mr. Atkinson’s office, it was unclear whether he needs to file a complaint to gain the legal protections offered to intelligence community whistle-blowers. Witnesses who speak with inspectors general are protected by federal law that outlaws reprisals against officials who cooperate with an inspector general.


Still, testimony from someone with more direct knowledge of Mr. Trump’s efforts to use American foreign policy for potential political gain would most likely undermine conservatives’ attacks on the C.I.A. officer’s credibility.

The House Intelligence Committee has taken the lead on the investigation into the whistle-blower’s claims as part of the impeachment inquiry into whether Mr. Trump abused his powers by using high-level diplomacy to advance his personal interests. Committee aides had sought to interview the whistle-blower last week but have yet to sit down with him, and it was unclear how soon they could.

As I noted, it’s not even clear that it would be necessary for this second person to come forward as a whistleblower in otder to receive the protections of that law. As noted, anyone who is interviewed by an Inspector General in connection with an investigation related to a whistleblower complaint is protected by the provisions of the law and it appears that this person was already interviewed by the Inspector General. Given that, this second person could be interviewed by the Intelligence Committee as part of the ongoing investigation and still be protected by the whistleblower law.

That being said, the significance of a second person coming forward regarding the Ukraine phone call, especially one with more direct knowledge of the relevant facts, would certainly bolster the impeachment case and bolster the claims of the initial whistleblower, which has already seen their claims confirmed by documents released by the White House and admissions by White House officials, seems rather obvious. Additionally, such a move could end up encouraging others with even more relevant knowledge to come forward. This would be especially true if it can be shown that the whistleblower process is doing its job in protecting the identity, career, and family of the whistleblower. With these assurances, others with relevant information would hopefully be encouraged to speak up about wrongdoing they have observed.

This news comes at the same time that NBC News is reporting that the top lawyer at the CIA made a criminal referral to the Justice Department regarding the Trump-Zelensky phone call weeks before the whistleblower’s complaint became public:

Weeks before the whistleblower’s complaint became public, the CIA’s top lawyer made what she considered to be a criminal referral to the Justice Department about the whistleblower’s allegations that President Donald Trump abused his office in pressuring the Ukrainian president, U.S. officials familiar with the matter tell NBC News.

The move by the CIA’s general counsel, Trump appointee Courtney Simmons Elwood, meant she and other senior officials had concluded a potential crime had been committed, raising more questions about why the Justice Department later declined to open an investigation.

The phone call that Elwood considered to be a criminal referral is in addition to the referral later received as a letter from the Inspector General for the Intelligence Community regarding the whistleblower complaint.

Justice Department officials said they were unclear whether Elwood was making a criminal referral and followed up with her later to seek clarification but she remained vague.

In the days since the anonymous whistleblower complaint was made public accusing him of wrongdoing, Trump has lashed out at his accuser and other insiders who provided the accuser with information, suggesting they were improperly spying on what was a “perfect” call between him and the Ukrainian president.

But a timeline provided by U.S. officials familiar with the matter shows that multiple senior government officials appointed by Trump found the whistleblower’s complaints credible, troubling and worthy of further inquiry starting soon after the president’s July phone call.

Ordinarily, a criminal referral such as this would prompt the Justice Department to immediately open a criminal investigation. Given the fact that the Attorney General is directly implicated in the whistleblower’s complaint, in fact, he should recuse himself and any decisions on this matter should be put in the hands of the Deputy Attorney General. Furthermore, as with the Russia investigation, one could make an argument that there ought to be a Special Counsel appointed to investigate this matter. Instead, the Justice Department under William Barr has apparently become the private lawyer for the President — the Roy Cohn — that Donald Trump has been looking for from the start. Rather than investigate a matter that obviously has merit, Justice Department officials are apparently willing to look the other way. This is John Mitchell all over again, and it’s inexcusable.

FILED UNDER: Intelligence, National Security, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Stormy Dragon says:

    A second potential whistleblower…

    This is the third whistleblower, actually:

    Whistleblower claims possible improper “efforts to influence” IRS audits of Trump or Pence tax returns

  2. Jim says:

    It is impossible to determine whether Trump was asking for help to investigate criminal activity in other countries, which is his job and legal, or asking for evidence to eliminate competitors, which is also legal, unless he was asking for evidence to be fabricated and offering payment to illegally interfere in an election, as Clinton did.

  3. gVOR08 says:

    Yes, Barr, if he wishes to maintain any appearance of even a shred of integrity, must recuse. But is there any reason to believe the Deputy AG, Jeffery Rosen, is any less of a tool than Barr? The deep state works for the Czar.

  4. Joe says:

    @Jim: It’s actually not that hard to determine whether Trump was asking for help to investigate criminal activities in other countries. Find any other instance in any other country where Trump has personally involved himself in this sort of activity. I’ll wait.

    And asking a foreign government for real dirt on your competitor is not legal.

  5. michael reynolds says:

    If I may quote the Mango Mussolini: bullshit. Courts regularly determine issues far more subtle and complex. This is actually a piece of cake.

  6. Gustopher says:

    @Jim: Also, no quid pro quo is required — no payments, etc.

    (Knowledge of the law apparently is required, but Trump was informed of that law by the Mueller investigation, which he referenced in the call)

    And I have seen nothing reputable about either Clinton doing this.

  7. gVOR08 says:

    All you have to do is ask Trump what other investigations he’s taken a personal interest in. I believe a reporter did yesterday, and Trumpsky drew a blank.

  8. charon says:


    asking for evidence to eliminate competitors, which is also legal,

    Not so, it is a felony actually.

  9. Teve says:


    From Vox:

    “I don’t care about Biden’s campaign, but I do care about corruption,” Trump told reporters outside the White House Friday. “I believe there was tremendous corruption with Biden … we are looking at corruption, we are not looking at politics.”

    Trump went as far as to insist “this is about corruption” or a close variant of that statement six times in less than 40 seconds.

    But all it took was one question from CNBC’s Eamon Javers to destroy his talking point.

    “Have you asked foreign leaders for any corruption investigations that don’t involve your political opponents?” Javers asked.

    The answer, it quickly became apparent, was no — even if Trump didn’t want to admit it.

    “You know, we would have to look, but I tell you — what I ask for, and what I always will ask for, is anything having to do with corruption with respect to our country,” Trump said, dissembling. “If a foreign country can help us with respect to corruption, and corruption probes — I don’t care if it’s Biden or anybody else.”

  10. Kathy says:

    It would be a good idea for people staging protests against Trump to carry whistles.

  11. Teve says:

    Vanity Fair on 2nd whistleblower.

    They think Trump’s about to go from the frying pan into the fire.

  12. CSK says:

    @Teve: Trump has to have someone look to see if he’s had similar conversations with other heads of state? Oh, sure. Totally. Absolutely.

  13. Slugger says:

    And in a totally unrelated development:
    Cops giving you trouble? Fire the cops!
    Stable and genius.

  14. Jen says:

    @Jim: It’s remarkable that you managed to make so many inaccurate statements in such a short comment.

    1) It is not impossible to determine what Trump’s intent was in the modified transcript that his White House released
    2) His sudden interest in fighting corruption would be slightly more believable had he not defended the corrupt Ukrainian prosecutor on that phone call
    3) It is in fact illegal to ask for ANY assistance from a foreign government, individual, or entity regarding his political competitors. This is one of the clearest and easiest to understand laws out there, even a plain reading of the law makes it clear that this is illegal.
    4) “…unless he was asking for evidence to be fabricated…” This actually comes pretty close to what he WAS requesting, which is why he is in hot water

  15. charon says:


    Not so, it is a felony actually.

    Apart from that, the Founding Fathers were obsessed about foreign meddling in American politics, so it would be a prime textbook example of the meaning of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

  16. CSK says:

    In the wake of the whistleblower, Trump is going to make “deep cuts” to the size of the staff of the National Security Council. Does he think this will contain the leaks?

  17. Teve says:

    Donald J. Trump
    Not only are the Do Nothing Democrats interfering in the 2020 Election, but they are continuing to interfere in the 2016 Election. They must be stopped!
    2:33 PM · Oct 5, 2019·Twitter for iPhone

    Damn DemonCraps and their flux capacitors!

  18. Smooth Jazz says:

    “A second potential whistleblower and an apparent criminal referral from the CIA’s top lawyer make a bad week even worse for Donald Trump.”

    LOL. Yawn, This sounds like a repeat of Kavanaugh – The first hoax accuser didn’t work out, so let’s pull a few more out the woodwork. It will not work this time either and people will see this is as another fake pile on accuser, just like Kavanaugh. In the meantime, I don’t anything on this blog about Shifty and Dems on the House Intelligence committee being tipped off by the fake whistle blower, Shifty lying and putting words in POTUS mouth during the hearing, Ambassador Volker blowing the fake whistle blower’s story out the water with his testimony yesterday, and Ambassador Taylor getting the info about Quid Pro Quo he mentioned in a text from a POLITICO — a story rebutted by EU ambassador Sondland:

    I gather news exculpatory to POTUS are not permitted on far left blogs such as OTB. Out of sight; Out of mind.

    The bottom line is this is nothing more than a policy disagreement and another spy hates POTUS. GET IN LINE. The first fake whistleblower is blowing up, so they dredge up another one. Doesn’t matter. We already have the transcript of the call. And the ambassador Volker’s testimony is already on record.

    Rep Congressmen and Senators are smart and will recognize this as another Kavanaugh accuser to prolong the hoax. Will not work. Sorry. If you disagree with POTUS and don’t like his Ukraine policy, go win an election. Partisan, one sided impeachments with zero support from the other side (Rep or Dem) never work. SORRY.

  19. DrDaveT says:

    @Smooth Jazz:

    This sounds like a repeat of Kavanaugh […]

    Russia can’t possibly be paying you enough to embarrass yourself like this.

  20. Mister Bluster says:

    I gather news exculpatory to POTUS…

    You mean like this?

  21. Gustopher says:

    @Smooth Jazz: Did Kavanaugh tweet out that he tried to rape that girl, have his lawyer go on tv and confirm it, and then attempt to rape someone else on the whole house lawn while on camera?

    Because, if he didn’t, it’s not a great analogy.

  22. Teve says:

    Yashar Ali

    NEW: President Trump told House Republicans that he made his now infamous phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the urging of Energy Secretary Rick Perry — a call Trump claimed he didn’t even want to make.

    So loyal, that guy. 😀

  23. Teve says:

    Kevin M. Kruse

    Rick Perry being made the fall guy for the Ukraine scandal right before his rumored resignation is basically the action movie cliché of the cop who gets gunned down two weeks before retirement.

  24. DC says:

    @Jim: go jump off the rickety russian bridge you troll you anti-American communist piece of trash

  25. Tevr says:

    Jeet Heer

    One of Trump’s genuinely redeeming qualities is that he’ll stab in the back anyone stupid enough to work with him.

  26. CSK says:

    @Teve: @Teve: Trump really is a pusillanimous POS, isn’t he?

  27. Teve says:

    @CSK: Perry made it 2½ years in the administration without getting much Trump stank on him. Then with one foot out the door, splat!

  28. CSK says:

    @Teve: Trump just lost Texas.

  29. Teve says:

    Donald J. Trump
    I’m hearing that the Great People of Utah are considering their vote for their Pompous Senator, Mitt Romney, to be a big mistake. I agree! He is a fool who is playing right into the hands of the Do Nothing Democrats! #IMPEACHMITTROMNEY

  30. Teve says:

    @CSK: you think so?

  31. CSK says:

    @Teve: Where’s he hearing this? From the voices in his head?

  32. CSK says:

    @Teve: Maybe. Texans seem to love Perry.

  33. Kari Q says:

    Trump is complaining that Democrats are “interfering” with the 2020 election and are “continuing to interfere” with the 2016 election. I am guessing the time machine that they used to plant a birth notice for Barack Obama in Hawaiian newspapers has been taken out of storage for the 2016 interference.

  34. Teve says:

    Brian Stelter
    · 3h
    Per @maggieNYT, “no one from the White House” is booked on the Sunday shows this week. Not for lack of trying. “And no one in House or Senate GOP leadership,” @JakeTapper adds. Again, not for lack of trying.

  35. Gustopher says:

    @Teve: It’s like he wants Mittens to be the first Republican Senator to break ranks, and he doesn’t foresee a world where that first Senator is praised and opens up the floodgates to others.

  36. An Interested Party says:

    @Teve: A bunch of cowards…they know there is no way they can defend anything this president is doing without getting pushback or being laughed at…

  37. Teve says:

    @Gustopher: when it comes to Trump or his followers I always assume the stupidest explanation is most likely. I think he’s just lashing out at Mitt with no consideration of consequences or strategy or anything intelligent.

  38. Jax says:

    @Teve: Correction. He’s lashing out at Mitt because Mitt is taller, handsomer, and smarter than him, and I think he knows, deep down, that the entire “establishment” Republican party would dump him down the sewer grate with the scary clown….if they could just figure out how to do it without pissing off the rabid Trumpaloons.

  39. Jax says:

    Deseret News. Check out the comments section….for as long as you can stand it. There is some hope….but it is “Multiple Choice Mitt”, as somebody mentioned on another thread.

  40. Jax says:

    And this one is where they are given their marching orders for the next 6 months. They got their shit together, I’ll give them that. What they say this weekend will determine the next 6 months of how their followers “spread the word” to others, and how the church reacts to Trump’s political attacks on Romney.

  41. michael reynolds says:

    @Smooth Jazz:
    I remember when some people used to take you seriously. Not me, but some. And now you’re just another #Cult45 clown.

  42. Louise says:

    Trump is stupid enough to have had the incriminating ‘Ukraine’ conversation with Bolton in the room and then thought nothing of sacking him.

    Trump would not realise the importance of ‘the cloud’ and how even transcripts of conversations can be accessed if someone had a mobile phone on them whilst having the conversation.

    Taylor apparently asked people to verify the situation by stating his interpretation of what he heard and asking for comment.

    Can’t wait for Pompeo to be officially questioned UNDER OATH – he was in the room during the incriminating Ukraine conversation, there goes his political future 🙂

  43. al Ameda says:

    @Smooth Jazz:

    I gather news exculpatory to POTUS are not permitted on far left blogs such as OTB. Out of sight; Out of mind.

    You’re right, I do not peruse Russian and North Korean news blogs for information that is exculpatory to our President.

    Should I look to Alex Jones, Breitbart, or FoxNews to get such ‘information’?