One of the leaders in whistleblower protections said on Tuesday that the person who called out President Donald Trump over a July call with the Ukrainian leader followed the law.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, issued a statement declaring that the member of the country’s intelligence community acted properly when he reported his or her concerns over a conversation between Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. Grassley added that the person “ought to be heard out and protected.”
“We should always work to respect whistleblowers’ requests for confidentiality,” Grassley said in his statement. “Any further media reports on the whistleblower’s identity don’t serve the public interest — even if the conflict sells more papers or attracts clicks.
“No one should be making judgments or pronouncements without hearing from the whistleblower first and carefully following up on the facts. Uninformed speculation wielded by politicians or media commentators as a partisan weapon is counterproductive and doesn’t serve the country.”
The issue revolves around a conversation Trump and Zelensky had July 25 following the latter’s party’s victory in parliamentary elections. According to a rough transcript released by the White House on Sept. 24, the two had talked about the similarities between what happened in Kiev and Washington and their leadership styles.
However, the conversation turned when Zelensky said his country was nearly ready to purchase Javelin missile systems from the U.S. At that point, Trump said, according to the transcript, “I would like you to do us a favor though…”
Following that, the U.S. president mentioned a previous investigation on Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, who is currently the front runner for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020. The younger Biden had worked for a Ukrainian gas company, and the investigation under a previous lead prosecutor found no wrongdoing over his employment.
Trump had urged Zelensky to reopen the investigation and work with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Attorney General William Barr and the president’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani on it. Political analysts have brought up that days before the conversation, Trump had held up about $250 million in military aid to Ukraine, which the country needed in its continued conflict with neighboring Russia.
Simultaneous to the release of the transcript, Congress had requested Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire to release the intelligence inspector general’s report of the whistleblower’s complaint. Then on Sept. 24, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced an impeachment inquiry over the matter.
Over the weekend, Trump lashed out on Twitter trying to get the identity of the whistleblower.
“Like every American, I deserve to meet my accuser, especially when this accuser, the so-called ‘Whistleblower,’ represented a perfect conversation with a foreign leader in a totally inaccurate and fraudulent way,” Trump said on his personal account Sunday.
“In addition, I want to meet not only my accuser, who presented SECOND & THIRD HAND INFORMATION, but also the person who illegally gave this information, which was largely incorrect, to the “Whistleblower.” Was this person SPYING on the U.S. President? Big Consequences!”
Previously on Saturday, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., on his position’s official Twitter account said: “Whistleblowers were required to provide direct, first-hand knowledge of allegations...but just days before the Ukraine whistleblower came forward, the IC secretly removed that requirement from the complaint form.
“We won’t rest until we have answers.”
However, that’s not true, contended Grassley, who co-founded the Senate Whistleblower Protection Caucus and helped write many of the laws on the matter.
“When it comes to whether someone qualifies as a whistleblower, the distinctions being drawn between first- and second-hand knowledge aren’t legal ones,” Grassley said in his statement. “It’s just not part of whistleblower protection law or any agency policy. Complaints based on second-hand information should not be rejected out of hand, but they do require additional leg work to get at the facts and evaluate the claim’s credibility.
“As I said last week, inquiries that put impeachment first and facts last don’t weigh very credibly. Folks just ought to be responsible with their words.”