Attorneys for the whistleblower whose complaint about President Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukraine’s president sparked the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry issued a statement Thursday threatening legal action against journalists who publish “the name of any person who may be suspected to be the whistleblower.”
The New York Times was first to provide some details about the whistleblower behind the complaint that started the impeachment inquiry, reporting in late-September that the whistleblower is allegedly a CIA agent who was “detailed to work at the [Trump] White House at one point.” The Times noted that the whistleblower’s attorneys confirmed their client’s position with the CIA. In the following weeks, speculation continued to swirl and pressure mounted from Republicans, including Trump, for the identity of the whistleblower to be revealed.
This week, multiple outlets revealed the name that, as RealClearInvestigations’ Paul Sperry put it, is reportedly “an open secret inside the Beltway.” In response, the whistleblower’s attorneys, Andrew P. Bakaj and Mark S. Zaid, issued a release Thursday addressing “speculation” on the whistleblower’s identity.
“Our client is legally entitled to anonymity,” the statement reads. “Disclosure of the name of any person who may be suspected to be the whistleblower places that individual and their family in great physical danger. Any physical harm the individual and/or their family suffers as a result of disclosure means that the individuals and publications reporting such names will be personally liable for that harm. Such behavior is the pinnacle of irresponsibility and is intentionally reckless.”
Below is the full text of the release (formatting adjusted):
In correspondence dated October 22, 2019, the Counsel of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency made it clear that “Whistleblowers play an essential public service on coming forward by reporting their reasonable belief of waste, fraud, abuse, and misconduct, and that whistleblowers “should never suffer reprisal or even the threat of reprisal for doing so.” Significantly, the letter quotes Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), Chairman and co-founder of the U.S. Senate’s Whistleblower Caucus, who noted recently regarding this matter that whistleblowers ‘ought to be heard out and protected’ and ‘we should always work to respect whistleblowers’ request for confidentiality. Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire — himself an appointee of President Trump — stated in his public testimony on September 26, 2019, that the whistleblower ‘acted in good faith and followed the law every step of the way.’
Members of the media have a similar role in protecting those who lawfully expose government wrongdoing.
Accordingly, we neither confirm nor deny the identity of the Intelligence Community Whistleblower. Our client is legally entitled to anonymity. Disclosure of the name of any person who may be suspected to be the whistleblower places that individual and their family in great physical danger. Any physical harm the individual and/or their family suffers as a result of disclosure means that the individuals and publications reporting such names will be personally liable for that harm. Such behavior is the pinnacle of irresponsibility and is intentionally reckless.
Attorneys for Ukraine call whistleblower new statement on speculation about the intelligence community employee’s identity. pic.twitter.com/UdsmSQ226P
— Kelly O’Donnell (@KellyO) November 1, 2019
In his report Wednesday revealing the “one name” that Beltway sources say is the whistleblower, Sperry explained the outlet’s rationale for revealing it. “RealClearInvestigations is disclosing the name because of the public’s interest in learning details of an effort to remove a sitting president from office,” he wrote. “Further, the official’s status as a ‘whistleblower’ is complicated by his being a hearsay reporter of accusations against the president, one who has ‘some indicia of an arguable political bias … in favor of a rival political candidate’ — as the Intelligence Community Inspector General phrased it circumspectly in originally fielding his complaint.”
Citing federal documents, Sperry reported that the whistleblower is allegedly a 33-year-old “registered Democrat held over from the Obama White House, previously worked with former Vice President Joe Biden and former CIA Director John Brennan, a vocal critic of Trump who helped initiate the Russia ‘collusion’ investigation of the Trump campaign during the 2016 election.” The whistleblower reportedly “left his National Security Council posting in the White House’s West Wing in mid-2017 amid concerns about negative leaks to the media” and “has since returned to CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.”
“He was accused of working against Trump and leaking against Trump,” a former NSC official told RealClearInvestigations.
When The New York Times first revealed that the whistleblower was a CIA agent who was previously detailed to the Trump White House, and that the whistleblower’s attorneys confirmed their clients’ CIA status, the Times’ Executive Editor Dean Baquet defended the decision to print the information because they wanted readers “to make their own judgments about whether or not he is credible.”
“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,” said Baquet. “We also understand that the White House already knew he was a C.I.A. officer.”