We cannot guarantee the safety of whistle-blowers. Oh, we pass all kinds of laws with fancy names like the “Whistleblower Protection Act.” Our presidents sign executive orders called “Protecting Whistleblowers with Access to Classified Information.” But when the rubber meets the road, when a whistle-blower wants to dish about the people in charge of enforcing the laws, all of our acts and proclamations are easily ignored pieces of paper.
Chelsea Manning lives in the Alexandria Detention Center. Edward Snowden lives in Moscow. People get to be called “whistle-blowers” only when the institutions they’re blowing the whistle on allow it. Otherwise, they’re called “criminals” or “spies” and are subjected to the full weight of the American justice system.
That justice system is currently run by Attorney General William Barr, and he is the most obvious reason our current “whistle-blower” has yet to come forward to Congress about whatever he or she would like to tell the American people about Donald Trump’s interactions with, and promises to, foreign leaders. What we know is that this whistle-blower, an intelligence official who worked at the White House, filed a complaint with Michael Atkinson, the inspector general for the intelligence community—and that Atkinson deemed the information credible enough to forward it to the director of national intelligence (DNI), and then to Congress. What we also know is that the Department of Justice told the DNI to ignore our whistle-blower laws and keep the information hidden from Congress.
Now, there are people in Congress, the media, and on the presidential campaign trail who hope that the whistle-blower takes the heroic step of risking their professional career and personal freedom to come forward, to Congress. Senator Kamala Harris urged the whistle-blower to “go directly to Congress,” saying that the “American people will stand with you.”
Man, if I were the whistle-blower, I’d tell all of these politicians and pundits to kiss my whole entire backside. We “American people” are a decadent bourgeoisie who won’t storm concentration camps to save children. Why should the whistle-blower believe that the “people” will do anything to “stand with” them, unless the whistle-blower has the secret recipe for chicken sandwiches? Our leaders in Congress are feckless cowards. They have failed, repeatedly, to hold President Donald Trump or A.G. Barr accountable for any of their past transgressions against the rule of law. Why should the whistle-blower believe that Congress—through the newly opened House Intelligence Committee investigation or other means—is going to start holding Trump and Barr accountable now?
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As for the courts—bah. Our Supreme Court is staffed by one guy accused of sexual harassment and one guy accused of attempted rape. The whistle-blower could ask Anita Hill or Christine Blasey Ford how the courts are likely to treat a person who dares to speak truth to power in this country.
Donald Trump exists because nobody with power in this country has been willing to risk anything to stop him, or his cronies. Donald Trump’s phone call with the Ukrainian president during which he tried to get the president to agree to dig up dirt on Joe Biden—which the White House suggests is the basis of the whistle-blower complaint—took place on July 25. Do you remember what happened on July 24? That was the day Robert Mueller testified before Congress about his investigation into conspiracy and obstruction of justice by Donald Trump and his presidential campaign.
You remember Robert Mueller—the man who was unwilling to risk his personal reputation for reticence or violate DOJ protocol to indict the president for obstruction of justice. The man who refused to use his open congressional testimony to call for the indictment or impeachment of Donald Trump. The man who didn’t want to be a hero.
Or maybe you remember the mewling backtracking of House Democrats right after the Mueller testimony. Yes, while Donald Trump was making calls to get foreign help to influence the next election, House Democrats were busy not impeaching the president for obstructing an investigation into whether he got foreign help to influence the previous election. While Democrats were slinking away with their tails between their legs, Trump was excitedly barking into phones in search of new crimes.
Robert Mueller and congressional leadership are just the most obvious examples of people in power who refuse to risk their position and standing to bring down the corrupt president. But there is a long, pathetic line of individuals who have refused to put themselves on the line to defend the country. Rod Rosenstein went along with Bill Barr’s whitewashing of the Mueller report. Jim Mattis quit and wrote a book as opposed to exposing the president to Congress. Rex Tillerson quit and traded insults, but not information. John Kelly quit and now profiteers off human rights violations against children. Don McGahn wouldn’t personally commit obstruction of justice, but he is fighting his hardest to not tell the American people what he was asked to do. Reince Preibus, Gary Cohn, Jeff Sessions, Dan Coats, H.R. McMaster, and now John Bolton—all of these people have had a front-row seat to the dangerous madness of Donald Trump, and none of them do anything to end his presidency.
And I haven’t even mentioned the actual Republican Party. Republican senators haven’t officially weighed in on the latest scandal, but we can guess what they’re going to say. Susan Collins will be deeply concerned. Marco Rubio will be searching for a bottle of water. Mitt Romney will be disappointed. None of them, not one Republican senator, will have the courage to act.
But now we want this whistle-blower to take a stand for the good of the nation? Now we want this non-public person to risk the vindictive rage of this president, when so many powerful people will not? How dare we? How dare we, as a people, expect this person to do what nobody else in Washington, DC, will do?
We desperately need and want this whistle-blower to come forward and risk everything to try to bring their information to light. We need this whistle-blower to be the hero none of us, and none of our leaders, have been. We need them to try everything. This whistle-blower is a government official, and we want them to take their oath to uphold the Constitution, over the objection of this president, more seriously than the attorney general, or the speaker of the House, or the Senate majority leader, or the chief justice of the Supreme Court.
That’s a tough ask.
If you want people to come forward with criminal information about this president, it might help to hold the president accountable for the crimes he’s already committed in plain sight. Maybe then this whistle-blower—and potentially many others just like them—will find the strength to speak out, without fear that they’ll be abandoned by the country they’re trying to help.
Trump has exposed us, all of us, as a nation led by cowards. Why would a whistle-blower even want to save us, when we have so completely shown them that we are unwilling to save ourselves?