A group of about 90 former national security officials have written an open letter calling for the government and media to protect the identity of the whistleblower at the center of an impeachment inquiry.
The public letter (pdf), which was first published in The Wall Street Journal on Oct. 6, argues that the person who filed the complaint against President Donald Trump, related to his July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, had followed proper procedure when making the complaint and should be entitled to the protections afforded under federal whistleblowing laws.
“A responsible whistleblower makes all Americans safer by ensuring that serious wrongdoing can be investigated and addressed, thus advancing the cause of national security to which we have devoted our careers,” the letter reads. “What’s more, being a responsible whistleblower means that, by law, one is protected from certain egregious forms of retaliation.”
“Whatever one’s view of the matters discussed in the whistleblower’s complaint, all Americans should be united in demanding that all branches of our government and all outlets of our media protect this whistleblower and his or her identity. Simply put, he or she has done what our law demands; now, he or she deserves our protection.”
It was jointly signed by officials who served under Democratic and Republican presidents, including many Obama administration officials such as former CIA Director John Brennan and James Clapper, former director of national intelligence, who have been under scrutiny for their alleged roles in the origins of the counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election.
The letter was made public on the same day reports that a second whistleblower had been interviewed by Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson. The second whistleblower is said to have firsthand knowledge of some of the events described by the first whistleblower and is also a member of the intelligence community.
The first whistleblower’s attorney, Mark Zaid, confirmed the news on Oct. 6, saying that his team was also representing the second whistleblower. Zaid didn’t clarify whether the second whistleblower has filed a formal complaint, revealing only that he or she has spoken with Atkinson.
Trump had previously said he wanted to meet his accuser, after the complaint prompted the House to launch an impeachment inquiry into the president. He has previously criticized the whistleblower for mischaracterizing the July 25 call with Ukraine, saying that the person either provided false information or the person who provided the whistleblower with information was “dishonest.”
“He wrote a vicious conversation. In other words, he either got it totally wrong, made it up, or the person giving the information to the whistleblower was dishonest,” Trump told reporters. “This country has to find out who that person was because that person is a spy in my opinion.”
Congress members from both sides of the aisle have expressed their support to uphold the law to protect the identity of the whistleblower, including Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who said he thinks the whistleblower “ought to be heard out and protected.”
“This person appears to have followed the whistleblower protection laws and ought to be heard out and protected. We should always work to respect whistleblowers’ requests for confidentiality,” Grassley, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, said in a statement.
The president said that he believes a whistleblower should only be protected “if the whistleblower is legitimate.” The whistleblower said in their complaint that they had received their information from White House officials.
The whistleblower’s complaint alleged the president was leveraging from his office by asking Ukraine to investigate “dirt” on 2020 presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden during the call.
The accusations prompted the White House to release the transcript of the call between Trump and Zelensky. The transcript revealed that Trump had asked Zelensky to look into CrowdStrike, a technology firm that was hired by the Democratic National Committee, and also look into Biden’s dealings with Ukraine while he was vice president. In 2018, Biden bragged that he pressured then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in 2016 to remove a prosecutor in charge of a probe of Ukrainian gas company Burisma, when Biden’s son was a board member of the firm.
The president has repeatedly maintained that his phone call with the Ukrainian president was “perfect” and that he asked Zelensky for help to investigate the alleged corruption around Biden’s dealings.
The whistleblower alleges that Trump’s request to Zelensky amounted to a violation of campaign finance law. The Justice Department reviewed the complaint and determined no further action was necessary.
Ivan Pentchoukov contributed to this report.