Former federal prosecutor blasts GOP efforts to bully and intimidate Ukraine whistleblower: ‘Both reprehensible and dangerous’

Former federal prosecutor blasts GOP efforts to bully and intimidate Ukraine whistleblower: ‘Both reprehensible and dangerous’
Gage Skidmore

With President Donald Trump standing beside him this week at a MAGA rally in Kentucky, Sen. Rand Paul joined the president in demanding to know the identity of the intelligence whistleblower who made a complaint about Trump’s July 25 phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. “Do your job and print his name,” Paul advised journalists. Paul is hardly the only Republican Trump supporter who is guilty of that type of rhetoric, and former assistant U.S. attorney Kim Wehle — in an article for the conservative Never Trump website, The Bulwark — lambasts efforts to bully and intimidate the Ukraine whistleblower —which, she asserts, is the real witch hunt taking place, not the impeachment inquiry in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“Some House Republicans appear hell-bent on outing the whistleblower in an irresponsible effort to deflect from the established narrative relating to Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian president Zelensky,” asserts Wehle, a professor at the University of Baltimore Law School. “Republicans have yet to come up with a counternarrative to the president’s attempt to entrench his own power by employing the Ukrainian government to disparage an opponent in the 2020 election: Joe Biden.”

Former federal prosecutor Mimi Rocah has asserted that when Trump and his supporters demand to know the whistleblower’s identity, it amounts to “witness intimidation” — which is a crime. Rocah sees their behavior as quite brazen, while Wehle views it as a key part of Trumpian strategy.

“The Wall Street Journal reports that, going forward, Republican lawmakers and conservative media outlets plan to focus their impeachment counterpunch on outing and attacking the whistleblower, beginning with speculation as to that person’s identity,” Wehle explains. “The president’s own tweets from the last few days reflect that strategy.”

For example, Wehle notes, Trump tweeted, “Where is the whistleblower?” on November 2 and “Reveal the whistleblower” the following day.

“This strategy is unsurprising, given that Trump and his allies — so far — have no answer to the damaging facts relating to the July 25 phone call,” Wehle asserts. “Only a couple of options are left in defense of Trump’s indefensible actions: either argue that it doesn’t matter if a president enlists a foreign power to investigate a political rival, or deflect attention off the president and onto an innocent scapegoat — the whistleblower.”

This strategy, according to Wehle, is “both reprehensible and dangerous.”

“The whistleblower laws have roots that go back to the earliest days of the republic — in fact, to even before the Constitution was adopted — and are designed to foster officeholders’ accountability to the people,” Wehle notes. “If the people don’t know what government is up to, abuses of office are allowed to happen with impunity. By scapegoating the whistleblower to save a corrupt presidency, Republicans are sending a chilling message to other career public servants: serve your country at your own personal peril.”

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