The implications of Sen. Rand Paul’s campaign to out the whistleblower who first exposed President Trump’s withholding of Ukraine military aid for domestic political purposes has big constitutional implications, writes attorney Jason Zuckerman.
As the IC whistleblower’s allegations have been corroborated by several highly credible witnesses, there is no legitimate reason to attack a whistleblower who initiated an investigation in a responsible manner. Indeed, in the words of Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire during his September 26, 2019 testimony, the whistleblower “acted in good faith throughout” and did “everything by the book and followed the law.” In contrast, a political actor in the IC plotting to impeach the President presumably would leak information to the media, not report information through the appropriate, lawful channel. The only ostensible reason for Senator Paul’s question is to chill whistleblowing during this Administration.
Although there is undoubtedly short-term political gain for Republican senators leading this crusade against a “deep state” conspiracy, they may come to regret undermining the First Amendment right to association. In particular, outing a whistleblower and forcing that whistleblower to reveal the names of other whistleblowers will result in harassment of whistleblowers, threats of physical violence, and otherwise chill associational rights. If Republicans are performing oversight of a Democratic president in the future, they will depend on whistleblowers to come forward and voluntarily participate in oversight investigations. And a political party focused on reducing wasteful spending should be eager to encourage civil servants to root out waste, fraud, and abuse.
One open secret of the National Security Agency is its ability to intercept the communications of foreign leaders. That ability, it is safe to say, include Ukraine president Voldymor Zelensky, the target of President Trump’s pressure campaign to extract a public statement about rival Joe Biden.
How that Trump has been impeached and faces trial in the Senate, House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff says NSA has unspecified reccords that are relevant to the impeachment trial that the Congress does not have acces to.
Schiff, D-Calif., contended that the National Security Agency “in particular is withholding what are potentially relevant documents to our oversight responsibilities on Ukraine, but also withholding documents potentially relevant that the senators might want to see during the trial. That is deeply concerning.” He also said “there are signs that the CIA may be on the same tragic course.”
Trump’s Ukraine story is a constellation of factoids that amount to a fantasy. Which isn’t to say it won’t be politically effective.
One important reason Democrats must be better prepared to fend off Ukraine-related conspiracy mongering is that Attorney General Barr is preparing some kind of ginned-up report that will line up neatly with Republican efforts in the hearings to pin 2016 election interference on Ukraine. It will suck all of the oxygen out of the proceedings for days or even weeks. Earlier this year, Barr tasked U.S. Attorney John Durham with investigating the origins of the various Trump-Russia investigations in 2016, which …
As Congress embarks on impeachment proceedings, the leadership of federal agencies in Washington are growing increasingly outspoken. Without mentioning the president, they are warning that President Trump’s actions as a threat to democratic government. The American government is fracturing. Call it the Trump crack-up.
A new inter-agency agency report illuminates the fissures between president and public servants. In the wake of revelations about Trump’s efforts to enlist foreign powers against domestic political rivals, the leaders of seven federal agencies issued a calli for a “whole of society” defense of the integrity of the 2020 elections.
The language is polite but urgent. The rebuke of the president subtle but precise. The implications are large. The leadership of the civil service is warning take a “whole of society” effort to thwart Trump’s intentions.
What’s driving opinion in the civil service elite is the same thing that’s driving public opinion toward impeachment: the sheer brazen scope of the Trump’s use of the federal government to promote his chances in the 2020 election. It is, in the words of Washington Post columnist, Greg Sargent, “mind-boggling.”
As Washington focuses on Trump’s efforts to extort an investigation into the Bidens from the Ukraine government, Congress has not yet looked into identical pressure campaigns on the intelligence services of the United Kingdom and Italy. The purpose of these missions to feed information, accurate or otherwise, to the U.S. media in order to absolve Russia of interference in the 2016 election and denigrate rival Joe Biden.
Trump, notes Sargent, has effectively deployed both the Justice Department and the State Department to enlist foreign government’s in his re-election campaign. Then’s there are the three intelligence services, which are known to be supportive of Trump (even if one of them seems to be spying on him. )
At the same time, the leaders of federal agencies in Washington are balking. Last month inspector generals of 70 government agencies denounced Bill Barr’s Justice Department for its handling of the whistleblower complaint that first called attention to Trump’s Ukraine machinations. The IG’s made clear they want to protect such whistleblowers.
this concern is not limited to the intelligence community but will have a chilling effect that extends to employees, contractors, and grantees in other parts of the government, who might not consider it worth the effort and potential impact on themselves to report suspected wrongdoing
Even stronger is the joint declaration, issued Tuesday by the Defense Department, FBI, NSA DHS,Justice Department, Director of National Intelligence, and the brand new Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CSIA). While the White House fishes for foreign help in London, Rome, and Kiev, the U.S. government warns of danger.
Our adversaries want to undermine our democratic institutions, influence public sentiment and affect government policies. Russia, China, Iran, and other foreign malicious actors all will seek to interfere in the voting process or influence voter perceptions. Adversaries may try to accomplish their goals through a variety of means, including social media campaigns, directing disinformation operations or conducting disruptive or destructive cyber-attacks on state and local infrastructure.
On the one hand, the incoherence of the U.S. government’s position is betrayed by Attorney General (and former CIA employee) Bill Barr. One day he uses his Justice Department position to solicit foreign help. Another day Barr uses DOJ to warn against it. The campaign against foreign interference is subverted from within by the president and his cronies.
On the other hand federal agencies are increasingly clear about what it will take to thwart foreign powers assisted by the White House. Just parse the conclusion of the inter-agency report.
“Americans should go to trusted sources for election information, such as their state and local election officials,” the reports says.
The implication is the president and the media are less reliable.
“We encourage every American to report any suspicious activity to their local officials, the FBI, or DHS.,” they say.
That is a another call for whistleblowers, the kind of whistleblowers the president and his allies are seeking to discredit.
“In past election cycles, reporting by Americans about suspicious activity provided valuable insight which has made our elections more secure.”
This can only be a reference to people who came forward to talk about multiple contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian state actors seeking private favors.
“The greatest means to combat these threats is a whole-of-society effort.”
In other words, with an AWOL commander in chief, its going to take everybody to protect the integrity of the democratic character of selecting the next president.
One British official with knowledge of Barr’s wish list presented to London commented that “it is like nothing we have come across before, they are basically asking, in quite robust terms, for help in doing a hatchet job on their own intelligence services”.