- The Washington Times - Monday, September 30, 2019

President Trump stepped up his attacks Monday on the anonymous government whistleblower who launched an impeachment inquiry against him, while Democrats and attorneys for the whistleblower say they have “serious concerns” for his personal safety.

“We’re trying to find out a whistleblower,” the president told reporters in the Oval Office, “when you have a whistleblower who reports things that were incorrect.”

Attorneys for the unidentified federal worker, who is believed to be a CIA analyst, responded quickly that their client is entitled to anonymity.

“Law and policy support this and the individual is not to be retaliated against,” tweeted attorney Andrew Bakaj. “Doing so is a violation of federal law.”

His colleague, attorney Mark Zaid, added on Twitter, “The law is paramount, and there are no exceptions for anyone.”

They said the whistleblower’s notoriety has brought about a reported $50,000 bounty for revealing his name.

The lawyers are working with the House and Senate intelligence committees to schedule the whistleblower’s closed-door testimony on allegations that Mr. Trump pressured the president of Ukraine in a phone call on July 25 to investigate Democratic presidential front-runner Joseph R. Biden and his son Hunter.

Democrats say Mr. Trump was requesting foreign help to interfere in the 2020 election and that he was temporarily withholding U.S. military aid to Ukraine as leverage. The president vehemently denies those accusations.

As Democrats moved to fast-track their impeachment inquiry, the chairmen of three House committees on Monday subpoenaed the president’s personal attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani, demanding documents related to the Ukraine probe.

“A growing public record indicates that the president, his agent Rudy Giuliani and others appear to have pressed the Ukrainian government to pursue two politically motivated investigations,” the chairmen wrote.

They said Mr. Giuliani urged Ukraine to prosecute citizens who provided evidence against Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and to investigate Mr. Biden. They asked Mr. Giuliani to turn over all phone records and text messages by Oct. 15.

Mr. Giuliani said the subpoenas were “signed only by Democrat chairs who have prejudged this case.”

“It raises significant issues concerning legitimacy and constitutional and legal issues including … attorney-client and other privileges,” he tweeted. “It will be given appropriate consideration.”

The president increasingly has targeted the whistleblower who filed the complaint against him in August. He accused the person of relying on secondhand information from other government employees, some of whom apparently listened in on Mr. Trump’s phone call as standard practice. Mr. Trump tweeted that the complaint “is not holding up” and that he has a right to “meet my accuser” in public.

“The Whistleblower knew almost nothing, its 2ND HAND description of the call is a fraud!” he tweeted.

Safety concerns

Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee called on Chairman Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, to protect witnesses from intimidation and investigate whether Trump officials initially tried to conceal the president’s phone call and the whistleblower’s complaint.

“This committee should not sit idly by as the president threatens potential witnesses, whose testimony may be crucial to congressional investigations into credible allegations against him,” the Democrats wrote in a letter.

Sen. Mark R. Warner, Virginia Democrat and vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, called on Republicans to condemn Mr. Trump’s public criticisms of the whistleblower, saying they pose a safety concern.

“My hope would be that even my Republican colleagues who may not want to weigh in on the substance of the complaint need to stand up and push back on this president’s outrageous behavior,” Mr. Warner told CNN.

Little can be done to protect the whistleblower’s safety, analysts say.

“Whistleblowing is inherently treacherous. We can do our best to minimize the threats, but whenever we get into high-stakes political battles all we can do is cross our fingers and hope for the best,” said Tom Devine, the legal director at the Government Accountability Project who has assisted more than 7,000 whistleblowers over the past 40 years.

Raneta J. Mack, a specialist on witness security who teaches law at Creighton University, said the whistleblower could be hidden in a safe house ahead of his testimony and may enter the FBI’s witness protection program later.

“If the threats continue, that’s when changing identities becomes a real possibility,” she said.

Last year, the Senate intelligence committee staffer responsible for securing witness and document confidentiality pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with journalists. That staffer, James Wolfe, was never charged with leaking documents, but he admitted misleading authorities about his romantic relationship with a journalist and was sentenced to two months in prison.

Two men who have appeared before the committee’s Russia investigation, former Trump campaign official Carter Page and lobbyist W. Samuel Patten, said Mr. Wolfe leaked documents related to their testimony.

The president insists that the whistleblower in his case is wrong. He has said repeatedly that his call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was “perfect” and that he didn’t pressure the new Ukrainian leader with a threat to withhold critical American military aid.

“There’s been tremendous corruption [by Democrats], and we’re seeking it,” Mr. Trump said. “But the whistleblower reported a totally different statement. When the whistleblower reported it, he made it sound terrible.”

Multiple news outlets reported Monday evening that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was on the call.

Mr. Trump also asserted that someone in government “changed the long-standing whistleblower rules just before submittal of the fake whistleblower report” to allow for complaints based on secondhand information.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and two other top Republicans asked the intelligence community inspector general whether his office changed the official whistleblower complaint form to enable the allegations filed against the president.

Mr. Zaid countered that the charge was false. “There has never been any requirement that #whistleblowers were required to possess first-hand knowledge to file complaint. No law anywhere states that,” he said.

The inspector general is authorized to investigate a complaint based on secondhand information to corroborate it, which is what happened, according to acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire. The president also pointed out that Mr. Zelensky said at the United Nations last week that he did not feel pressured during their phone call.

“Case closed!” Mr. Trump tweeted.

Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani have been pushing for information from Ukraine about Hunter Biden, who had no experience in the energy industry but received $3 million for a post with a Ukrainian natural gas company while his father served as vice president and as a key U.S. liaison to Ukraine.

Mr. Biden, as vice president, threatened in 2016 to withhold $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees unless Ukraine fired its top prosecutor, who at one point had been investigating the gas company. He said the prosecutor wasn’t pursuing corruption aggressively.

The president said he will keep pushing to uncover evidence of Democrats’ corruption related to the origins of the Russia investigation by the FBI — unfounded allegations that Moscow conspired with the Trump campaign to meddle in the 2016 election. Some of those allegations are believed to have originated in Ukraine, an issue he raised in his call with Mr. Zelensky.

“There was a lot of corruption having to do with the 2016 election against us,” Mr. Trump said. “And we want to get to the bottom of it, and it’s very important that we do.”

Australian connection

The New York Times reported Monday that Mr. Trump also sought the help of Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in a recent phone call to help Attorney General William Barr gather information for a Justice Department inquiry into the origins of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, citing two U.S. officials with knowledge of the call.

The FBI’s counterintelligence probe into the Trump campaign, called Crossfire Hurricane, began in 2016 after Australian officials told the agency that Russian operatives offered the Trump campaign damaging information about Hillary Clinton. The resulting investigation that ran nearly three years and cost tens of millions of dollars found no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Republican Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Chuck Grassley of Iowa on Monday asked the Justice Department to investigate claims that Democrats worked with Ukrainian officials to dig up dirt on Mr. Trump ahead of the 2016 election.

In a letter to Mr. Barr, the lawmakers asked for more information about whether Ukrainian officials sought to undermine Mr. Trump’s campaign. They also want to know more about Mr. Biden’s interactions with Ukrainian officials.

“Ukrainian efforts abetted by a U.S. political party to interfere in the 2016 election should not be ignored,” the senators wrote. “Such allegations of corruption deserve due scrutiny, and the American people have a right to know when foreign forces attempted to undermine our democratic processes.”

The letter comes just days after the Justice Department revealed U.S. Attorney John Durham is investigating whether Ukraine was involved in any efforts to meddle in the 2016 election. Mr. Durham was hand-picked by the attorney general to look into the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation.

In the letter, the senators say Alexandra Chalupa, a Democratic consultant, coordinated with Ukrainian officials to find opposition research on Mr. Trump in 2016. Ms. Chalupa is Ukrainian American and worked as a Democratic consultant for more than a decade. She has denied reports that she sought to find damaging information on Mr. Trump.

Mr. Zelensky said Monday that Kyiv is “open” to investigating Mr. Biden and his son but won’t act solely at the request of the United States.

“Our independent law enforcement agencies are ready to investigate any case in which the law has been broken,” Mr. Zelensky said, according to Reuters. “We can’t be commanded to do anything. We are an independent country.”

Mr. Zelensky also said it’s unlikely his government would release its transcript of the phone call with Mr. Trump.

“There are certain nuances and things which I think it would be incorrect, even, to publish,” he said.

Mr. Trump intensified his criticism of Chairman Adam B. Schiff, California Democrat, of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, suggesting he be arrested for treason for reading aloud a made-up summary of the president’s phone call at a committee hearing last week.

“Adam Schiff made up a phony call, and he read it to the Congress, and he read it to the people of the United States,” Mr. Trump told reporters. “This whole thing is a disgrace. It’s called ‘drain the swamp.’”

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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