The ugliness of President Trump’s attacks on the whistleblower who first exposed his scheme to extract political favors from the Ukraine government has reached its logical culmination.
Mark Zaid, the whistleblower’s attorney, received a death threat last year that has resulted in the arrest of a supporter of the president.
The email came from Brittan J. Atkinson, said Michigan federal prosecutors, who was indicted on charges of making death threats against Zaid. The newly unsealed court filing was first reported by Politico and noted by Seamus Hughes, the deputy director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University. Atkinson sent the menacing message from Gladwin County, in northern Michigan, the indictment said. He is charged with violating federal interstate communication laws, which prohibit “any threat to injure the person of another.” The felony offense is punishable by up to five years in prison.”
At campaign rally in Louisiana lat year Trump called Zaid “a sleazeball.” He ended his digression by saying: “These people are bad people, and it’s so bad what they do to our country. They rip the guts out of our country.”
“Keep looking over your shoulder,” Atkinson is alleged to have written. “We know who you are, where you live and who you associate with. We are all strangers in a crowd to you.”
“I hope this indictment sends a message to others that such behavior will not be tolerated by a civil society that is governed by law,” Zaid said in a statement.
Last year I reviewed the evidence of the chemical attack in Douma, Syria and came away unconvinced by the “false flag” scenario advanced by some critics of U.S. policy. While the U.S. is known to mount “false flag” operations, the evidence from Douma does not support the claim that an attack was staged to blame the Syrian government for someone else’s actions.
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) concluded the April 2018 attack was perpetrated by Syria and used chlorine to kill dozens of people. One investigator working with OPCW said that the impact crater on the roof the building where the victims lived cast doubt on whether the deadly ordance had been from the air or manually.
Even if the the so-called OPCW whistleblower, Ian Henderson, was correct about the ordance, the question remains, what is the better alternative? If the facts don’t support a Syrian chemical attack, do they support the critics’ scenario of a “managed massacre,” in which the victims were supposedly killed elsewhere and then brought to the building where a munition was found.
The first thing to understand is the scene of the attack: a densely populated urban neighborhood in a war zone.
To give an idea of how dire the situation was, the Douma pocket surrendered less than 24 hours after this chemical attack, bringing an end to fighting in this area. The bombardment was so intense that medical workers could not move through the city. Any potential plan that would have included placing these cylinders manually must have been carried out under this intense bombardment and chaos.
The idea of mounting a “false flag” operation is such an environment is fanciful, bellingcat notes.
In order to create the scene observed in open source materials, the bodies of at least 34 people, including men, women and children, would have had to have been obtained — possibly via mass murder. The victims would have had to be killed in a way that left no obvious visible trauma. All these bodies would have had to be fresh to account for livor and rigor mortis.
Either these people were killed in a way that produced a frothy discharge, or the froth was added later to bodies of people who were already dead. The Russian and Syrian presentation at the UN claimed that bodies were transported in from another location and that nobody in the building was affected by any gas. There are, of course, no images or videos showing any of these 34 bodies being unloaded from the cars they were allegedly transported in. No witnesses interviewed immediately after the attack by journalists or the OPCW reported bodies being transported into this location.
The Senate Intelligence Committee is calling for a government-wide effort to prepare for a Russian intervention in the 2020 presidential election. The timing of the report, however, undermines its message.
The day after all of the committee’s Republican members voted to acquit the president of charges that he covertly sought the help of a foreign government for his 2020 campaign, the committee called on Trump to “put politics aside” and marshal “all the resources of the U.S. Government to effectively confront the threat.”
The committee said:
The President of the United States should take steps to separate himself or herself from political considerations when handling issues related to foreign influence operations. These steps should include explicitly putting aside politics when addressing the American people on election threats and marshalling all the resources of the U.S. Government to effectively confront the threat.
There is little possibility that Trump will follow the committee’s recommendation;. In the past year, Trump has tweeted 12 times about what he calls the “Russia Hoax.” After a majority of the House of Representatives and 48 Senators concluded that Trump’s Ukraine actions were a threat to the election, Trump claimed “VICTORY.“
The DNL as the country’s senior intelligence representative, should provide a regular, apolitical assessment of foreign intelligence threats to U.S. elections, including clandestine foreign influence campaigns. prior to regularly scheduled federal elections.
That too seems unlikely. Last September acting DNI Joseph Maguire declined to make an apolitical assessment of foreign threats. Maguire, named to his position after Trump fired Dan Coats, rejected he recommendation of his Inspector General and refused to forward an “urgent” whistleblower’s complaint about Trump’s clandestine effort to enlist Ukraine’s help in the 2020 election. The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel also sought to block the whistleblower’s complaint from reaching Congress.
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.
“It will be incumbent on her to protect the whistleblower — and by extension, the organization — moving forward,” said Marc Polymeropoulos, a senior CIA operations officer who recently retired. “This is a seminal moment for her leadership, and I’m confident she will do the right thing.”