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.

FILED UNDER: Congress, 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. Teve says:

    Hillary Clinton

    The president is a corrupt human tornado.
    10:36 AM · Sep 30, 2019

  2. Jen says:

    whose anonymity is protected by law

    So, the president is trying to break or subvert *yet another law.*

    He deserves to be impeached every day until he steps down.

    And let’s be honest. The only reason they want to know who it is, is so that they can start trashing this person’s reputation and having Trump’s supporters threaten his family. There is no bottom this administration won’t scrape.

  3. CSK says:

    Not only does Trump not understand how government works–and lacks the patience or ability to learn–but he thinks he can run the presidency the way he ran his ramshackle, ethics-deprived business fiefdom.

  4. Kathy says:

    Next up, I expect Pompeo to be the designated Poindexter when/if he appears before a House committee. It’s the logical move for Trump, as he assumes everyone is as stupid and as eager to please Trump as he is.

  5. Teve says:

    ABC News:

    Mark Levin, a radio host and Trump supporter, appeared on “Fox and Friends” on Saturday to demand more information on the whistleblower, saying “I want to know everything about him! I want to know what kind of dogs they have, how many marriages they’ve had, if they have a DUI, if they’re a partisan, I want to know everything!”

    I want to shoot the messenger because that will make the message go away!

  6. KM says:

    It’s not even that -he’s straight up acting like the mafia at this point, demanding somebody ID the rat so they can be dealt with “the old way” and claiming snitching is worse then the actual crime that he admitted to with his transcripts. He wants the name so some young dumbass looking to make a name for himself might deal with the problem for him. He’s goading his troops with talk of war – I wouldn’t be surprised if he made a Godfather reference about “going to the mattresses” any day now. He’s claiming the rules were changed just to get him based on “heresay”, which sounds remarkable like “you got nothin’ copper. Joe’s just runnin’ his mouth with no proof”.

    If *anything* happens to the whistleblower, their family or the LEOs protecting them, it should be another Article of Impeachment immediately. It cannot be overstated that the leader of our nation is threatening the safety of a citizen on purpose with his mob-like behavior. This cannot be allowed in a civilized nation if it wants to stay civilized.

  7. CSK says:

    @KM: Trump clearly learned a lot from his own lifelong dealings with the mob–and from his mentor, Roy Cohn.

    The elder Trump was a sleazy crook, too. Like father, like son.

  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Of course he is.

  9. JKB says:

    The “whistleblower” stated clearly in their statement that they were not a witness, but rather had been told. No witness has come forward and this impeachment inquiry is moving a head on what law professor Richard Epstein termed “double hearsay”

    Nonetheless, the Democrats are gearing up to impeach on double hearsay, even though the best evidence of what happened is the call itself, which does not contain a shred of evidence to support the inflammatory charge that Trump was pressuring Zelensky to “dig up” dirt on Biden to improve the President’s chances of reelection.

  10. CSK says:

    @JKB: Your reply doesn’t address the issue of witness intimidation, which is what this thread is about.

  11. Jen says:


    The “whistleblower” stated clearly in their statement that they were not a witness, but rather had been told.

    No. Wrong.

    First of all, a whistle-blower is permitted, BY LAW, to report things that he/she learns secondhand. So, regardless, that is permissible, and protected behavior.

    Second, the form that was filled out has two boxes, one indicating that the whistle-blower has first-hand knowledge, the other indicating that the whistle-blower is reporting on activity learned from others.

    Per the ICIG, the whistle-blower checked BOTH BOXES.

  12. KM says:

    They don’t need a witnesses (direct or not) anymore since Trump freaking ADMITTED it with his transcripts. I know this is hard for you but it stops being “heresay” when the accused CONFESSES!! So since Trump himself confirmed what the whistleblower is saying….. well, let’s see if you’re smart enough to put it all together.

    You are *desperate* to come up with anything to discredit this because this is very, very bad for Trump and you know it. Lies about changing forms, that this is a “set up” (how does that work with a confession again?) and all this rambling about heresay doesn’t change the fact that Donald screwed himself over with that transcript he allowed to be released. I’m sorry it’s hard to stick to the talking points when the boss keeps lighting them on fire but hey, you don’t have to keep polishing that turd.

  13. Kathy says:

    All these years people have been calling the fire department to deal with fires, when all they had to do was discredit the smoke detector.

  14. DrDaveT says:

    The best line on Colbert last night was when he pointed out that you only have a right to face your accuser in a court of law, and that he sincerely hopes that Mr. Trump gets his wish in that regard.

  15. KM says:

    Yeah but that smoke detector’s partisan and it’s always going on heresay. I mean, it’s smoke but did it witness a fire personally? No! Bitches be lyin’ every time somebody burns the toast – I even heard they changed the batteries a few weeks before the latest alarm. Clearly it’s a set-up and it’s out to get the most harried cooks of all time. Nobody’s ever be harassed by fire alarms like these cooks, let me tell you! NO SMOKE, NO ALARM!

  16. mattbernius says:


    The “whistleblower” stated clearly in their statement that they were not a witness, but rather had been told.

    First being a first hand witness isn’t required by the statute (source: and ). Second you keep glossing over the fact that all of the evidence that has come out after the fact has supported the compliant.

    This has been pointed out a number of times — hearsay can be used to initiate an investigation to see if the facts correspond with the account.

    ps. let’s just jump past the point where you try to post the completely discredited Federalist article ok? There was no rule change.

  17. Kathy says:

    Here’s the BIG thing trump’s supporters and apologists haven’t considered:

    In government it’s necessary to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. To be sure, corruption by a former Vice President and current presidential candidate is very serious. So even if we ignore the information available through the media, which does not indicate any sort of corruption or illegality on Biden’s part, the way Trump is going about it is still wrong, as he seems to be pressuring foreign leaders into investigating his rival.

    So, assuming there was something to the allegations against Biden, what any normal president would do is ask the DOJ to investigate, and then step back. The DOJ, for its part, ought to appoint a special prosecutor, preferably one without ties to the administration or the GOP. If foreign countries where the alleged corruption took place balk at helping, you first let the State Department deal with that. There is a reason, other than issuing visas, for having an embassy in most countries.

    The reason Trump hasn’t done this, besides being president in title only(*), and besides being congenitally corrupt, and besides being a terrible person overall, and besides having a pathological desire to strike back, is because a legitimate investigation carried out fairly and within the rules, probably won’t find a thing. it’s hard to find what isn’t there.

    (*) The acronym is PITO, naturally, which in some variants of Spanish slang means either “whistle” or “dick.”

  18. Paul L. says:

    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.

    I know the names of the whistle blowers for the Ted Steven’s trial and ATF Fast and Furious program.
    Why wasn’t ex-US Attorney Dennis Burke charged under 5 U.S.C. § 2302 (b)(8)-(9) for leaking sensitive documents about ATF agent and whistleblower John Dodson?

  19. Gustopher says:

    Potentially, of course, this type of continual witness intimidation is potentially another ground for impeachment

    And the Republicans will go to the mat to back their president on this.

  20. mattbernius says:

    @Paul L.:

    I know the names of the whistle blowers for the Ted Steven’s trial and ATF Fast and Furious program.

    At least in the case of the Fast and Furious, that’s in part because the whistleblower (John Dodson) choose to go public in an interview with the CBS Evening News and later testified openly in front of Congress.


    But hey, you know, facts.

    Time will tell if the current whistleblower follows a similar pattern.

  21. Teve says:

    So far we’ve gotten

    Whatabout Hunter Biden
    Whatabout Michelle Obama
    Whatabout John Dodson

    Who will be next on the Carnival of Deflection?!?! 🙂 😀 😛

  22. Gustopher says:

    @Teve: Deflector Shields to maximum!

  23. de stijl says:

    What he’s doing now, this behavior?

    He’s done this his entire adult life.

    It is his go-to move. If he feels disrespected, he punches back, belittles, calls people names, distracts.

    Roy Cohn taught him.

    It’s as predictable as the phase of the moon. It is Trumpian.

  24. de stijl says:


    Did you know that Hunter Biden once consumed cocaine in his young adult life!

    This changes everything!

  25. Kathy says:

    @de stijl:

    Wasn’t Roy Cohn like a Sith before there were Sith?

  26. de stijl says:


    Have you ever seen “Angels In America”?

  27. Kathy says:

    @de stijl:

    I’ve heard about it.