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Ukraine call: The rank dishonesty of calling for the whistleblower’s identity

[Mark Zaid, attorney for the whistleblower]

Attorney Scott Pilutik wrestles with the news of the day, from a lawyerly perspective…

Remember when the chief complaint about the Ukraine call whistleblower was that his letter contained hearsay? Since then a steady stream of direct, firsthand witnesses have made their way to Capitol Hill, many in defiance of a White House directive not to testify. Those witnesses have confirmed every corner of the whistleblower complaint.

Of late, though, Trump and his surrogates have increased their calls to out the whistleblower by name. It’s suddenly talking point number one. The rank dishonesty behind those calls is evident enough because they’re no longer even whining about hearsay. They just want a name to attack.

The whistleblower’s attorney has offered to answer House Republicans’ questions directly in writing without even having to go through the Democrat-led House Committees. I’ll guess they turn down that offer because the point isn’t to get answers, it’s to opportunistically create a news cycle tangent with a new target whose bias can be attacked. Never mind what they’re saying, their point is to attack who is saying it.

Some reports indicate that the whistleblower’s name has more or less been deduced and published by certain dank outlets. If those reports are accurate it’s likely that those calling for his/her (I’m allowing for either gender though everyone appears to be assuming the whistleblower is male) official unmasking feel they have a good bias argument ready to be dropped into the already toxic news stream. Did they once vote Democrat? Did they once click Like on a Facebook post critical of Trump? Dumb potential bases abound.

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If you heard that your house was burning down from someone who didn’t see it themselves but had heard it from someone else, that first person’s report would be hearsay and far less important than the person who actually witnessed your house burning down. Did they see someone setting a fire? Your hearsay witness wouldn’t know, which is why their testimony is less vital.

The bonus hypocrisy here is that Trump surrogates are simultaneously (a) arguing that the whistleblower’s identity is necessary; and (b) attempting to prevent other witnesses (who could theoretically refute the whistleblower’s testimony) from testifying. If they were genuinely curious to get to the bottom of every point raised in the whistleblower’s letter, those opportunities have presented themselves dozens of times over the last few weeks.

Also: it should be mentioned that outing the whistleblower is prohibited by the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989, which explicitly prohibits retaliation against whistleblowers. 5 USC § 2302 (b)(8)-(9).

This is why their identity is presently both (a) an open secret in some quarters and (b) unreported by real news outlets, who would need a source willing to go on the record.

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