Trump Engaging In Witness Intimidation
Even as the impeachment vultures circle, the President is lashing out and making things more difficult for himself.
Even as the Democrats begin an impeachment investigation based largely on the allegations of an intelligence community. President Trump is attacking the whistleblower and apparently seeking to uncover the whistleblower’s identity:
WASHINGTON — President Trump said on Monday that the White House was “trying to find out” the identity of the whistle-blower whose claims led Democrats to begin an impeachment inquiry last week, even as the whistle-blower’s lawyers have outlined “serious” safety concerns for their client as Mr. Trump has repeatedly targeted him and compared him to a spy.
Mr. Trump’s latest comment, made to reporters in the Oval Office during the swearing-in of his new labor secretary, Eugene Scalia, followed up on a series of Twitter posts over the weekend, in which Mr. Trump claimed that he deserved “to meet my accuser.”
It was not immediately clear what steps the White House was taking to identify the whistle-blower, but the White House has known for weeks that a C.I.A. officer lodged concerns about Mr. Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. Still, Mr. Trump’s fixation on discovering and discussing the identity of the whistle-blower, whose anonymity is protected by law, was seen as a brazen move for a president under scrutiny for abuse of power.
“As the acting D.N.I. testified last week, the law and policy supports protection of the identity of the whistle-blower from disclosure and from retaliation,” Mark Zaid, the lawyer for the whistle-blower, said Monday, referring to the acting director of national intelligence, in response to Mr. Trump’s most recent comments. “No exceptions exist for any individual.”
The President’s continued comments about the whistleblower and apparent efforts to uncover their identity are, of course, leading to charges that he is attempting to intimidate a witness:
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) on Thursday denounced President Trump‘s remarks about those involved in a whistleblower complaint focused on his dealings with Ukraine, arguing Trump’s comments amounted to “witness intimidation.”
“The President’s suggestion that those involved in the whisteblower complaint should be dealt with as ‘we used to do’ for ‘spies and treason’ is a reprehensible invitation to violence against witnesses in our investigation,” Schiff tweeted after reports surfaced that Trump described the whistleblower and officials who gave them information as “almost a spy.”
“All Americans must denounce such witness intimidation.”
Speaking at a private fundraiser at the Intercontinental Hotel in New York on Thursday morning, Trump suggested that the whistleblower and other unnamed White House officials cited in the complaint committed treason, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing a recording it obtained.
“Basically, that person never saw the report, never saw the call, he never saw the call — heard something and decided that he or she or whoever the hell they saw — they’re almost a spy,” Trump said, according to the Los Angeles Times, adding that he wanted know “who’s the person who gave the whistleblower the information?”
“Because that’s close to a spy,” he continued. “You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart? Right? The spies and treason, we used to handle it a little differently than we do now.”
The reality, of course, is that the whistleblower statutes exist to protect people such as this person from exactly the type of intimidation that would endanger their careers or even their safety or the safety of their families. By law, their identity is supposed to remain secret and cannot be revealed except on a need-to-know basis. This would include the President himself, who even in ordinary circumstances does not have a need-to-know the whistleblower’s identity. In this case, the need for secrecy is even more apparent given that the President is effectively the target of the whistleblower’s complaint and the fact that making the whistleblower’s identity publicly known could potentially put them and their family members at risk for potential retribution from Trump supporters or others.
Potentially, of course, this type of continual witness intimidation is potentially another ground for impeachment along with the acts committed in the phone call with President Zelensky and his Administration’s refusal to comply with Congressional subpoenas and requests for access to documents and witnesses. In other words, the more Trump lashes out the deeper hole he digs for himself.