President Trump Continues Effort To Name Whistleblower
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Now let's zero in on the saga of the whistleblower whose complaint launched the impeachment investigation. President Trump and his supporters have repeatedly called for that person's identity to be revealed. In comments and tweets, the president has asked over and over, where is the whistleblower? Lawyers for the whistleblower say this person is supposed to remain anonymous. They also contend that the initial complaint has now been superseded by testimony that others have provided to congressional committees, including, as we just heard, more testimony today.
NPR national security correspondent Greg Myre is here. Hi, Greg.
GREG MYRE, BYLINE: Hey, Mary Louise.
KELLY: What are the president and his backers doing to try to out the whistleblower?
MYRE: Well, as you noted, this has been a constant refrain from the president. He says he has a right to face his accuser. And Republicans in Congress clearly want to know who this person is and say they want to be able to challenge his credibility. Here's Republican Jim Jordan of Ohio speaking yesterday.
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JIM JORDAN: You always look for two things when a whistleblower comes forward. Did they have firsthand knowledge, and what is their bias and/or motive? This individual, whomever he may be, has problems in both areas.
MYRE: So we're hearing reports from this congressional testimony recently that some Republicans have been asking witnesses, who did you talk to? - you know, trying to sort of ferret out who the whistleblower might be or who sources might be. Democrats have been pushing back against this, and we're also seeing conservative media and social media outlets speculating on who this person might be.
KELLY: We mentioned that the whistleblower's lawyers are also pushing back against the idea that this person should be outed. What are they saying?
MYRE: Right. So I spoke with Mark Zaid. He's one of two attorneys for the whistleblower, and he says both the attorneys and the whistleblowers have received death threats. So safety is a real issue, he says, and he addressed these points that Jim Jordan raised. He noted the whistleblower's complaint has been corroborated by several witnesses that have gone before the committees, and he adds they provided much more background in greater detail than the original complaint. Here he is.
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MARK ZAID: It's amazing that people were criticizing the individuals not having firsthand information but yet now demand to hear from this person. So the whistleblower will add absolutely nothing to the factual equation, which means the only reason why people are trying to out this individual is for partisan, vindictive purposes.
KELLY: So that is the lawyer. What about the law itself, Greg? What does the law say about protecting the identity of this person, especially since we know this person comes from the U.S. intelligence community?
MYRE: Right. So this process - and there is a specific process for whistleblowers in the intelligence community, and it's supposed to provide anonymity. Not all that many people in the intelligence community come forward. Many see it as very, very risky for their careers. Now, Mark Zaid acknowledged that there's actually little legal recourse if a member of Congress or a media outlet were to divulge the name, and the history of whistleblowers has not always been a happy one because often, the name has been leaked before.
KELLY: Yeah, and once it's out, it's out. There's no walking it back.
MYRE: You can't unhear it. Now, the sources closest to this investigation say there initially were some discussions about having the whistleblower testify in some form, but there's been no agreement, and there are no active discussions at the moment.
KELLY: Just briefly, Greg, to the point that the whistleblower's complaint has now been superseded by all this other testimony, just walk us through what we've learned, what gaps have been filled in since that complaint came to light.
MYRE: I think it's become much broader in terms of how far back it went. For example, one - Marie Yovanovitch, who was the ambassador - she says way back in the summer of 2018, she first heard wind of a campaign against her. That's one example. Another would be this week. Twice this week, we've heard testimony from people who were in the Situation Room and were in listening on the phone call.
KELLY: That is NPR's Greg Myre. Thank you, Greg.
MYRE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.