Sen. Rand Paul’s challenge to the media to identify the anonymous whistleblower who started the impeachment inquiry against President Trump got mixed reactions Tuesday from Republicans, while Democrats roundly condemned it.
Sens. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, Rob Portman of Ohio, John Thune of South Dakota and Mitt Romney of Utah were among the GOP lawmakers objecting to varying degrees to revealing the whistleblower’s name, saying it would send a chilling message to other government employees.
“A person like me that has advocated for whistleblowers for a long period of time, including this whistleblower, I want maximum protection for whistleblowers,” Mr. Grassley said.
Mr. Romney, who has clashed frequently with the president, said whistleblowers, “particularly those who are blowing whistles on action within the government, should be allowed to remain confidential.”
They were reacting to Mr. Paul’s call at a Trump campaign rally Monday night for the media to expose the whistleblower, who is reportedly a CIA employee.
“Do your job and print his name,” the Kentucky Republican told the media.
Mr. Trump, who was standing on stage next to Mr. Paul, applauded.
“Wow, that was excellent,” the president said approvingly.
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The president and his allies increasingly have demanded that the whistleblower testify to Congress and be exposed, saying he’s a partisan and that his complaint against the president is inaccurate. He complained that Mr. Trump pressured the president of Ukraine in a July 25 phone call to investigate Democratic frontrunner Joseph R. Biden, whose son Hunter was on the board of a Ukrainian energy company, for corruption.
Question: "The whistleblower laws protect the whistleblower. You know it's illegal to out a whistleblower?"
Sen. Rand Paul: "Actually, you see you've got that wrong." pic.twitter.com/2c1Xw8pFJ4
— The Hill (@thehill) November 5, 2019
Democrats condemned the public pressure being exerted on the whistleblower.
“I cannot stress just how wrong this is,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York. “There should be bipartisan outrage at the public attempts by the president and a member of this body to expose the identity of a federal whistleblower.”
Sen. John N. Kennedy brushed aside criticism of Mr. Paul’s hot rhetoric about the identity of the whistleblower.
“I think the whistleblower if he or she has an ounce of courage or conviction would step forward,” the Louisiana Republican told The Washington Times.
Mark Zaid, a lawyer for the whistleblower, said it’s “amazing” how many federal officials “have little or no understanding of” whistleblower laws.
“Please do not allow ideological demagogues to distort reality with their fantasy application of how they prefer the system to be,” he said on Twitter.
The identity of whistleblowers is protected under law to prevent retaliation, such as being fired or demoted. There are no legal restrictions on the media publishing the name of a whistleblower, provided the information is accurate.
Mr. Zaid said the media has an ethical duty not to report the whistleblower’s name.
“Any effort to publish a name, whether accurate or not, will place that individual’s health and safety, and that of their family, in potential jeopardy,” he said in a statement. “Publication of any name is reckless and irresponsible and must be condemned.”
Mr. Paul said the president, too, has legal rights under the Sixth Amendment to confront his accuser.
“The Constitution is very clear on this, and we shouldn’t completely just throw away the Constitution, particularly because certain networks just don’t like the president,” Mr. Paul told a reporter for CNN.
The lawmaker said he might disclose the whistleblower’s identity.
“I’m more than willing to and I probably will at some point,” Mr. Paul said. “There is no law preventing anybody from saying the name.”
White House director of legislative affairs Eric Ueland stopped short Tuesday of saying directly that the whistleblower should be unmasked.
“The layout here by the president is to ensure that all facts are known about his activities not being in any way wrong and that all facts about everybody — their opinions, their background, what they bring to the table in this conversation — be known by the entire American public,” Mr. Ueland told reporters.
The president has said the person identified in some reports as the whistleblower is a Democrat who had a working relationship with top officials in the Obama administration, such as former CIA Director John Brennan and former national security adviser Susan Rice.
“If he’s the whistleblower, he has no credibility because he’s a Brennan guy, he’s a Susan Rice guy, he’s an Obama guy, and he hates Trump, and he’s a radical,” the president told reporters this week. “Now, maybe it’s not him. But if it’s him, you guys ought to release the information.”
⦁ S.A. Miller and Ryan Lovelace contributed to this report.
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