House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Saturday announced the first director of a new office, the House of Representatives’ Office of the Whistleblower Ombudsman.
The office was established at the beginning of the current Congress and is charged with developing best practices for whistleblower intake for House offices and providing trainings to House offices on how to safely and confidentially receive information from whistleblowers.
The office is meant to be independent and nonpartisan, according to Pelosi’s office.
Pelosi said the first director of the office is Shanna Devine, who most recently advocated for whistleblower and other occupational rights for Public Citizen, a public interest organization located in Washington. She began her career with the Government Accountability Project.
The director is selected by the speaker of the House with advice from the chairs and ranking members of the House Committees on Administration and Oversight and Reform.
Devine’s “deep policy experience will be vital, as the first-ever Director of the Office of the Whistleblower Ombudsman, as she works to ensure that the House has the support and tools to carry out our legislative oversight responsibilities for the American people,” Pelosi said in a statement.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the House Administration Committee, added in a statement: “The establishment of the House Office of the Whistleblower Ombudsman and the appointment of Shanna Devine to lead this new office is an important step to uphold our end of the bargain by providing offices of the House of Representatives with the resources and trainings necessary to protect and empower those who strive to bring about accountability and transparency for the American people.”
No Republicans were quoted in a press release from Pelosi’s office and none have issued statements on the new position, including House Administration Ranking Member Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) and House Oversight and Reform Ranking Member Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).
Devine told Congress last year (pdf) that whistleblowers are “courageous individuals” who “should be rewarded” for helping the Department of Veterans Affairs “perform its mission.”
“Yet, they are often treated as if they have committed a crime for simply exposing the truth,” she said.
The nomination came after a tense impeachment inquiry in the House, which ended with Republican President Donald Trump being impeached, and the Senate impeachment trial, which culminated with Trump being acquitted. The impeachment efforts stemmed, Democrats said, from a complaint filed by a person against the president for a July 2019 phone call with Ukraine’s president.
Some members of Congress, including Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), pushed for more information about the whistleblower who filed the complaint. During the trial Paul submitted a question naming a person who has been accused of being the person who filed the complaint, but the question was blocked by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who was presiding over the trial.
Paul later read the question during a press conference, released it on Twitter, and read it on the Senate floor. YouTube this week removed a video of Paul speaking on the Senate floor and mentioning the alleged whistleblower’s name.
“A chilling and disturbing day in America when giant web companies such as YouTube decide to censor speech,” Paul wrote in a statement. He said that he doesn’t know the identity of the whistleblower and noted that his question didn’t “accuse anyone of being a whistleblower.”
A spokesperson for YouTube said in a statement that “videos, comments, and other forms of content that mention the leaked whistleblower’s name violate YouTube’s Community Guidelines and will be removed from YouTube.”
Jack Phillips contributed to this report.