Others’ opinion: Congress, ‘do your job’ and protect whistleblower

Published 5:49 am Thursday, November 7, 2019

Star Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

One of the worst features of President Donald Trump’s “no rules, no regrets” mind-set is that it has emboldened others to follow suit.

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On Sunday, Trump tweeted that the Ukrainian whistleblower, whose complaint set the impeachment inquiry in motion, should be unmasked. By Monday, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, at a Trump rally in his home state, claimed to know the identity of the Ukraine whistleblower and then demanded the media “do your job” and reveal the person’s name. Trump stood by his side, beaming and applauding.

We’ll state this clearly, though we’re fairly certain Paul already knows that:

• Outing a whistleblower violates federal law. Whistleblowers are protected for good reason. It is imperative that those with information about serious wrongdoing are able to step forward without jeopardizing their jobs and more.

• It is not the media’s responsibility to umask a federally protected informant. If Paul wants that kind of dirty work done and he knows the name, he should state it. He won’t, though, because he knows the consequences for breaking the law.

• The record shows that in 2014, when Democratic President Barack Obama was in office, Paul was an ardent proponent of expanded whistleblower protections.

This is all part of an increasingly dangerous game in which Trump and his supporters are resorting to any means necessary to get beyond the impeachment investigation. Whether it’s blackening the record of a Purple Heart soldier who has spent a lifetime serving his country or unmasking a whistleblower who gave detailed, credible and now verified information about misdeeds, Trump and his loyalists have made it clear they will stoop to any level.

It matters little to them that the whistleblower’s claims have been verified in account after account by those with enough courage to obey their subpoenas and testify in closed-door sessions. Instead, they are attempting to manufacture outrage over a legal process designed to protect those with knowledge of government wrongdoing.

We know many in the Republican Senate — such as Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, who made whistleblower protections a signature issue — must be repulsed by what is happening. Grassley, Sen. Mitt Romney and a handful of other senior Republican senators have broken ranks on this issue, declining to call for the whistleblower to be identified. But there are other, louder voices only too eager to prove their loyalty to Trump even if it involves lawbreaking. Unsurprisingly, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham — who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee — is helping lead that charge, insisting that the whistleblower should be unmasked.

The vitriol and flat-out lies about the validity of this impeachment inquiry should trouble all Americans. There must be an accepted process for dealing with potential wrongdoing that applies to all equally. Allowing the accused to intimidate, retaliate and obstruct attempts to verify allegations undermines this nation’s ability to govern itself.