White House

Trump disregards whistleblower protections as polls turn against him on impeachment

Survey finds 46 percent of independents now support impeachment, an 11-point jump

President Donald Trump cedes the lectern to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a press conference on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly last week. He continues pressuring a whistleblower who prompted an impeachment inquiry. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Donald Trump on Tuesday said he wants to “interview” the whistleblower who prompted House Democrats to launch a formal impeachment inquiry, but federal laws offer the intelligence community official protection and polls show the president’s attempts to discredit that person are failing.

During a morning-long tweet blitz, Trump asked: “why aren’t we entitled to interview & learn everything about........the Whistleblower, and also the person who gave all of the false information to him.”

“This is simply about a phone conversation that could not have been nicer, warmer, or better. No pressure at all (as confirmed by Ukrainian Pres.),” he wrote of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. “It is just another Democrat Hoax!”

But the president’s latest public lashing out at the still-unknown intelligence community employee who crafted a formal complaint about Trump’s July 25 telephone conversation with Zelenskiy — during which he suggested Zelenskiy “do us a favor” by investigating 2020 Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden and son Hunter in return for additional U.S. military aid — is not resonating with voters.

[Ignoring federal protection, Trump says hunt is on for whistleblower]

And some polls suggest trouble for the president.

A plurality of voters — 47 percent — now support Trump being impeached by the House and removed from office by the Senate, according to a new CNN-SSRS poll. That’s up from 41 percent in May, with those opposing such action declining by an even larger amount, 9 percent (from 54 percent in May to 45 percent in the new survey).

The number of Democrats that support impeachment remains relatively the same, at 74 percent, as past version of the survey. But the number of GOP and independent voters who support it has risen.

Forty-six percent of independents surveyed support impeachment, up 11 points. Among Republicans, support is at 14 percent — an 8 percentage point increase. Notably, 47 percent of independents say the president improperly used his office to gain a political edge against potential 2020 general election foe Biden.

That poll was conducted Sept. 24-29, after Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the formal inquiry.

As the public appears to be moving away from Trump’s contention the whistleblower is “biased” and lacks credible information, the president on Tuesday morning suggested he and his team should be allowed to interview the individual.

The president on Monday told reporters he is trying to figure out who the person is. That would violate federal whistleblower laws and intelligence community guidelines.

“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 updates 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, if the person’s identity is revealed, that a reprisal would not be far behind. Protections mean an accused would not be allowed to interview his or her accuser.

The president on Tuesday called the individual “the so-called ‘Whistleblower’” and insisted his complaint featured “all second hand information” and was completely “wrong” — even though it aligns closely with a summary of the call prepared by the president’s White House staff.

Senate Judiciary member Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, on Tuesday said the intelligence community official “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,” the Iowa Republican said in a statement. “Uninformed speculation wielded by politicians or media commentators as a partisan weapon is counterproductive and doesn’t serve the country.”

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