Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters
Fox News is lying about the Trump whistleblower, suggesting the controversy is just about a policy disagreement. The facts make clear that we are well beyond that point.
Fox News figures are pushing the Trump administration’s line against an intelligence official’s whistleblower report about a troubling phone call between President Donald Trump and a foreign leader, claiming the report is probably about a “policy.”
The Washington Post reported Thursday night that the complaint involves Ukraine, saying that “two and a half weeks before the complaint was filed, Trump spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.” As he confirmed on CNN, Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani has pressured the Ukrainian government to investigate Trump’s political opponents.
Friday morning, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade dismissed the whistleblower as a mere Trump critic, saying the president “has a policy … this person disagrees with.”
BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): Do you know what this whole debate is? Do you like the president’s policy on the Ukraine? That’s what normally happens. Oh, the president in a conversation is [indecipherable] about — if this story is controversial, the president’s policy on the Ukraine. Is it worse than Barack Obama’s policy on the Ukraine, where you just let the Russians steamroll the whole country, and give them blankets to help them out? That’s the biggest controversy. That’s the way we used to do things. One president’s policies, compared to the other. But, no, a whistleblower comes forward, and the president, in a conversation that he knows everybody is listening to from the NSA on down, has a policy in which this person disagrees with. Perhaps that’s why the Justice Department doesn’t think this whistleblower complaint should rise to the level of the oversight committee in the House. Perhaps that’s the scenario.
STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): Well, they said — the Department of Justice says it’s privileged, and it did not meet the statutory requirement for Congress winding up with it.
Matthew Whitaker, the former acting U.S. attorney general, appeared on Fox “straight news” program America’s Newsroom, and declared at least three times that the whistleblower story was only about the intelligence officials’ disagreement with Trump on a “policy” issue.
“We have a situation here where one person disagreed, probably with the policy that was articulated, or the strategy that the president employed, and made a complaint,” Whitaker said. “And again, to their credit, they did go through the proper channels. But now, you know, [House intelligence committee chair] Adam Schiff and the members of Congress are trying to pull this out in order to do political damage to the president. And it’s just — it is — there are just sick people involved in this situation.
This is all demonstrably false. The actual text of the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act of 1998 includes the following definition of what is covered in its purview: genuine abuses of power — not just policy differences — as well as any official reprisals that might occur against somebody filing a report of such an “urgent concern.”
(g) In this section:
(1) The term ‘urgent concern’ means any of the following:
(A) A serious or flagrant problem, abuse, violation of law or Executive order, or deficiency relating to the funding, administration, or operations of an intelligence activity involving classified information, but does not include differences of opinions concerning public policy matters.
(B) A false statement to Congress, or a willful withholding from Congress, on an issue of material fact relating to the funding, administration, or operation of an intelligence activity.
(C) An action, including a personnel action described in section 2302(a)(2)(A) of title 5, United States Code, constituting reprisal or threat of reprisal prohibited under section 7(c) in response to an employee’s reporting an urgent concern in accordance with this section.
Thus, since Inspector General Michael Atkinson views the whistleblower’s report as valid, there is a professional opinion that the issue was not a mere difference of views on foreign policy, but one of genuine national security concern.
In a letter earlier this week to the House intelligence committee, Atkinson specifically stated his disagreement with the DOJ’s conclusion that the matter involved did not meet the standards of the law. Instead, Atkinson stated his view that “the Complainant’s disclosure not only falls within the [director of national intelligence’s] jurisdiction, but relates to one of the most significant and important of the DNI’s responsibilities to the American people.”
Furthermore, Atkinson warned that the whistleblower’s professional status remains in danger:
Although I appreciate that the Acting DNI has provided his personal assurance that the Complainant will be protected if the Complainant’s identity becomes known and the Complainant is reprised against, or threatened with reprisal, for making the disclosure, such personal assurance is not the legally enforceable statutory protection previously available to whistleblowers in the Complainant’s situation.