Trump digs his hole deeper with witness intimidation to obstruct justice

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The New York Times today reveals a little too much information about the whistleblower — the editors clearly know who the whistleblower is — that makes it easy to identify whom the whistleblower is by going through the roster of who was assigned to the White House on specific dates.

Nevertheless, we can assume that the White House almost certainly knew who the whistleblower was almost from the beginning — despite it’s denials that it does not know who the whistleblower is — based upon what the Times is reporting today. The whistleblower laws have failed to protect this patriotic American. White House Knew of Whistle-Blower’s Allegations Soon After Trump’s Call With Ukraine Leader (paragraphs reordered for clarity):

The White House learned that a C.I.A. officerhad lodged allegations against President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine even as the officer’s whistle-blower complaint was moving through a process meant to protect him against reprisals, people familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

The whistle-blower was detailed to work at the White House at one point, according to three people familiar with his identity, and has since returned to the C.I.A.

The officer first shared information about potential abuse of power and a White House cover-up with the C.I.A.’s top lawyer through an anonymous process, some of the people said. The lawyer shared the officer’s concerns with White House and Justice Department officials, following policy. Around the same time, the officer separately filed the whistle-blower complaint.

Lawyers for the whistle-blower refused to confirm that he worked for the C.I.A. and said that publishing information about him was dangerous.

“Any decision to report any perceived identifying information of the whistle-blower is deeply concerning and reckless, as it can place the individual in harm’s way,” said Andrew Bakaj, his lead counsel. “The whistle-blower has a right to anonymity.”

The Times is defending its decision:

Dean Baquet, the executive editor of The New York Times, said The Times was right to publish information about the whistle-blower. “The president and some of his supporters have attacked the credibility of the whistle-blower, who has presented information that has touched off a landmark impeachment proceeding,” Mr. Baquet said. “The president himself has called the whistle-blower’s account a ‘political hack job.’”

Mr. Baquet added, “We decided to publish limited information about the whistle-blower — including the fact that he works for a nonpolitical agency and that his complaint is based on an intimate knowledge and understanding of the White House — because we wanted to provide information to readers that allows them to make their own judgments about whether or not he is credible. We also understand that the White House already knew he was a C.I.A. officer.”

The Times provides a timeline of events:

During his time at the White House, the whistle-blower became deeply unnerved about how he believed Mr. Trump was broadly seeking to pressure the Ukrainian government to conduct investigations that could benefit him politically. “Namely, he sought to pressure the Ukrainian leader to take actions to help the president’s 2020 re-election bid,” said the complaint, which was released on Thursday.

During a July 25 call, Mr. Trump asked President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to investigate unsubstantiated allegations of corruption against former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his younger son and other matters that the president saw as potentially beneficial to him politically, according to a reconstructed transcript released by the White House on Wednesday.

His complaint suggested he was an analyst by training and made clear he was steeped in details of American foreign policy toward Europe, demonstrating a sophisticated understanding of Ukrainian politics and at least some knowledge of the law.

The week after the call, the officer delivered a somewhat broad accusation anonymously to the C.I.A.’s general counsel, Courtney Simmons Elwood, according to multiple people familiar with the events. The initial allegations reported only that serious questions existed about a phone call between Mr. Trump and a foreign leader.

As required by government policy, Ms. Elwood had to assess whether a “reasonable basis” for the accusation existed. During the preliminary inquiry, Ms. Elwood and a career C.I.A. lawyer learned that multiple people had raised concerns about Mr. Trump’s call.

Ms. Elwood also called John A. Eisenberg, a deputy White House counsel and her counterpart at the National Security Council, according to three people familiar with the matter. He was already aware of vague concerns about the call.

Ms. Elwood, Mr. Eisenberg and their deputies spoke multiple times the following week. They decided that the accusations had a reasonable basis.

Mr. Eisenberg and Ms. Elwood both spoke on Aug. 14 to John Demers, the head of the Justice Department’s national security division, according to three people familiar with the discussion. Ms. Elwood did not pass on the name of the C.I.A. officer, which she did not know because his concerns were submitted anonymously.

The next day, Mr. Demers went to the White House to read the transcript of the call and assess whether to alert other senior law enforcement officials. The deputy attorney general, Jeffrey A. Rosen, and Brian A. Benczkowski, the head of the department’s criminal division, were soon looped in, according to two administration officials.

Department officials began to discuss the accusations and whether and how to follow up, and Attorney General William P. Barr learned of the allegations around that time, according to a person familiar with the matter. Although Mr. Barr was briefed, he did not oversee the discussions about how to proceed, the person said.

But as White House, C.I.A. and Justice Department officials were examining the accusations, the C.I.A. officer who had lodged them anonymously grew concerned after learning that Ms. Elwood had contacted the White House, according to two people familiar with the matter. While it is not clear how the officer became aware that Ms. Elwood had shared the information, he concluded that the C.I.A. was not taking his allegations seriously.

That played a factor in his decision to become a whistle-blower, they said. And about two weeks after first submitting his anonymous accusations, he decided to file a whistle-blower complaint to Mr. Atkinson, a step that offers special legal protections, unlike going to a general counsel.

Ms. Elwood and Mr. Eisenberg learned only later about the complaint, filed on Aug. 12, and did not know it was sent by the same officer who had sent the information anonymously to her.

At the end of August, the office of the director of national intelligence referred the allegations to the Justice Department as a possible criminal matter. Law enforcement officials ultimately declined to open an investigation.

This is because the Trump “Injustice” Department corrupted by Attorney General William “Coverup” Barr is taking the extreme position in court right now that not only can the president not be charged with a crime under OLC policy memorandums, but is asserting that the president cannot even be investigated for possible crimes. Trump’s new argument: He’s immune from all criminal investigation: Department of Justice guidelines say a president cannot be prosecuted while in office, as former special counsel Robert Mueller made clear. But Trump’s personal attorneys are now going well beyond that by arguing that he also cannot be “investigated … or otherwise subjected to the criminal process.”

The revelation that the White House knew that a C.I.A. officer was expressing concerns before he filed a whistle-blower complaint demonstrates a weakness in a law meant to protect him from reprisals and shows that he was at risk of retaliation.

“I always advise whistle-blowers against going to general counsels because the general counsels have to report the matter,” said Dan Meyer, the former executive director of the intelligence community whistle-blowing program and managing partner at the law firm Tully Rinckey’s Washington office. “They are like tuna in a shark tank.”

Our third-rate mafia “Don” Trump contemplated violent retribution against he whistleblower last night. Add another count for witness intimidation to obstruct justice.

Speaking to State Department employees at a closed-door meeting, Mr. Trump said the whistle-blower was “almost a spy,” according to a person briefed on what took place, and said he wanted to identify his sources, suggesting that punishment awaited them.

The Washington Post has a recording and transcript of his threatening remarks. ‘Almost a spy’: Transcript of Trump’s remarks at private U.N. event about whistleblower:

I’m sure there’ll be something they’ll find in this report that will suit their lie. But basically that person never saw the report, never saw the call. Never saw the call. Heard something, and decided that he or she or whoever the hell it is — sort of like, almost, a spy. I want to know who’s the person that gave the whistleblower, who’s the person that gave the whistleblower the information, because that’s close to a spy. You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart? Right? With spies and treason, right?

. . .

(He then said, “We used to handle them a little differently than we do now,” according to a recording of the remarks obtained by the Los Angeles Times.)

Democratic Reps. Eliot L. Engel (N.Y.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), chairman of the Intelligence Committee, and Elijah E. Cummings (Md.), chairman of the Oversight Committee, issued a joint statement condemning Trump’s comments that seem to threaten the whistleblower’s life. Top Democrats accuse Trump of trying to intimidate whistleblower to obstruct justice:

The Democratic leaders said the president’s remarks were akin to obstructing the House impeachment inquiry by seeking to intimidate the whistleblower from cooperating.

“We condemn the President’s attacks, and we invite our Republican counterparts to do the same because Congress must do all it can to protect this whistleblower, and all whistleblowers,” they said. “Threats of violence from the leader of our country have a chilling effect on the entire whistleblower process, with grave consequences for our democracy and national security.”

Trump cannot stop himself. He will continue to dig his hole deeper.