White House

Trump: ‘I don’t care’ about protections for whistleblower

‘I think a whistleblower should be protected, if the whistleblower is legitimate,‘ president says after describing complaint as ‘inaccurate’

President Donald Trump speaks to the media as he meets with Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto in the Oval Office on Wednesday in Washington. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)

President Donald Trump on Wednesday again refused to agree with efforts by intelligence officials and lawmakers to keep the identity of the whistleblower whose complaint kicked off House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry a secret.

Described by a reporter in the Oval Office as “feisty” and “combative,” Trump first told journalists “I don’t care” when asked if the intelligence community official who raised concerns about his July 25 telephone call with Ukraine’s new president should be protected and allowed to remain anonymous.

[Trump disregards whistleblower protections as polls turn against him on impeachment]

But then he added this: “I think a whistleblower should be protected, if the whistleblower is legitimate.”

The president has described the whistleblower, despite admitting he does not know the person’s identity, as “biased” and the “so-called whistleblower,” alleging the person is part of a “political hack job.” On Wednesday, he called the individual’s account of the call on which a White House-prepared summary indicates Trump asked Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate Joe Biden and son Hunter Biden “inaccurate.”

[Trump disregards whistleblower protections as polls turn against him on impeachment]

His Oval Office comment appeared his latest attempt to try discrediting the whistleblower by suggesting his complaint is not legitimate and Democrats’ probe as “BULLS---,” as he wrote in a tweet just minutes before welcoming his Finnish counterpart to the White House.

House Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff, who is heading up the impeachment probe, told reporters earlier Wednesday federal whistleblower statutes offer the intel official protections, including keeping his name secret. The California lawmaker said House Democrats intend to do “everything in our power” to keep the whistleblower’s name under wraps.

“Congress and the executive branch have defined in statute and directives procedures for IC whistleblowers to make protected disclosures that also provide for the security of classified information,” the Congressional Research Office stated in a Sept. 29 report. “Whistleblowing protections for employees and contractors in the IC are extended only to those who make a lawful disclosure.”

[Trump is a one-man war room on impeachment inquiry]

Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire and the intelligence community’s inspector general have told Congress the whistleblower followed all relevant laws and internal procedures in lodging his formal complaint.

An intelligence community guideline, first codified in 2014 then updated two years later, includes “protections against reprisal involving a personnel action against the IC employee making a protected disclosure,” according to CRS.

The president and his surrogates have done little to suggest that, if the person’s identity is revealed, a reprisal would not be far behind.

Trump debuted a new nickname for the House Intel chairman: “Shifty Schiff,” and said Schiff “couldn’t carry his blank-strap.” The president was suggesting the chairman could not carry Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s jockstrap.

He again called on Schiff to resign over the Democrat last week relating his interpretation of the president’s words on the July call. Schiff only briefly qualified that opening statement during a Thursday hearing, causing temporary confusion that he had unearthed more of the conversation than released by the White House.

Even some Democrats have said Schiff made a tactical error with what many called a parody.

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