Hmm: Did the Intelligence Community Recently Change Its Whistleblowing Rules to Allow Secondhand Complaints?

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Posted: Sep 30, 2019 10:25 AM
Hmm: Did the Intelligence Community Recently Change Its Whistleblowing Rules to Allow Secondhand Complaints?

The feeding frenzy over impeachment and Ukraine continued through the weekend, driven by a number of noteworthy developments and exchanges.  On Fox News Sunday, anchor Chris Wallace revealed that Rudy Giuliani was not acting alone in actively seeking the Ukrainian government's assistance in digging up dirt on the Biden family (which the president also infamously requested in a phone call with that country's leader).  Two attorneys, who are familiar faces on several Fox opinion programs, have also reportedly been working "off the books" on this front:

"The only person in government who knows what they were doing is President Trump."

 
For some additional color on why it's especially intriguing that this story was broken by Fox's news division, read this.  We've also learned that intelligence community rules on whistleblowing were changed just last month, and in such a way that enabled the whistleblower in this controversy (a CIA officer, according to the New York Times) to come forward.  The Federalist's Sean Davis broke the story:

Between May 2018 and August 2019, the intelligence community secretly eliminated a requirement that whistleblowers provide direct, first-hand knowledge of alleged wrongdoings. This raises questions about the intelligence community’s behavior regarding the August submission of a whistleblower complaint against President Donald Trump. The new complaint document no longer requires potential whistleblowers who wish to have their concerns expedited to Congress to have direct, first-hand knowledge of the alleged wrongdoing that they are reporting. The brand new version of the whistleblower complaint form, which was not made public until after the transcript of Trump’s July 25 phone call with the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky and the complaint addressed to Congress were made public, eliminates the first-hand knowledge requirement and allows employees to file whistleblower complaints even if they have zero direct knowledge of underlying evidence and only “heard about [wrongdoing] from others.”

...The internal properties of the newly revised “Disclosure of Urgent Concern” form, which the intelligence community inspector general (ICIG) requires to be submitted under the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act (ICWPA), show that the document was uploaded on September 24, 2019, at 4:25 p.m., just days before the anti-Trump complaint was declassified and released to the public. The markings on the document state that it was revised in August 2019, but no specific date of revision is disclosed...A previous version of the whistleblower complaint document, which the ICIG and DNI until recently provided to potential whistleblowers, declared that any complaint must contain only first-hand knowledge of alleged wrongdoing and that complaints that provide only hearsay, rumor, or gossip would be rejected.

The 'Ukraine/phone call' whistleblower did not have firsthand knowledge of the president's conduct, and would therefore have been ineligible to file a complaint under the previous rules. This does not change the fundamental facts of Trump's wrongdoing, but the timing of the IC's whistleblower policy shift does seem suspicious. The public deserves to know, specifically, how, why and when this policy alteration occurred -- and who was involved, at every step of the process.  On the surface, this does have a whiff of a 'deep state' conspiracy to harm the president, which would not exonerate the president over his actions, but would reinforce one of his frequent refrains about the nature of the attacks on his presidency (update - the nature and timeline of the changes is being hotly disputed back and forth, with both sides screaming 'conspiracy.'  Some of the parsing seems to come down to statute vs. rules.  Let's have a full accounting of the facts on what exactly happened and why, please).  Separately, with the administration under fire for what is alleged to be a 'cover up' attempt by moving the official account of Trump's call with President Zelensky to a highly secure server reserved for sensitive national security secrets, former Obama official Susan Rice admitted that this maneuver also occurred under her boss:


Meanwhile, people within the Biden camp appear to realize that the side of this whole firestorm involving their man poses a threat to his candidacy:

Biden advisers, who argue that Mr. Trump’s focus on the former vice president underscores his fears about Mr. Biden, have mounted a ferocious offensive against reporters who have questioned Mr. Biden’s record on Ukraine or raised his son’s business dealings. It is a strategy they say will continue; whether Mr. Biden faces doubts from voters over those issues will become clearer in the coming weeks. Privately, some of Mr. Biden’s advisers and allies said this week that they would like to see the former vice president speak out more forcefully against Mr. Trump, in a way that channels the outrage of the party’s base and the resolve of Democrats in Congress.

Bill Maher is surely correct that the Rachel Maddows of the world would be pounding the desk about shady influence peddling if Joe and Hunter Biden were Republicans.  As I've written previously, I don't think the evidence backs up the 'Joe killed an investigation into his son's company by getting a prosecutor fired' storyline many Republicans are repeating (watch this exchange between a GOP Congressman and CNN's Jake Tapper on how the talking points don't hold up).  But that doesn't mean that Biden is off the hook.  Would Hunter Biden have ever been gifted a $50,000 monthly salary at a Ukrainian gas company -- given his total lack of expertise or knowledge -- if not for the fact that his father was the sitting Vice President and the Obama administration's point person on Ukraine?  We all know the answer to that question.  Also, why did Joe Biden claim that he never discussed his son's international business dealings with him (don't forget about this fragrant China trip), when we know that's not true?  Biden's team doesn't want these questions being asked.  (Update: Read this excellent roundup from Jim Geraghty on all the Biden shadiness.)

Finally, on the public opinion front, voters' views are moving.  Nearly two-thirds of Americans say the president's actions on Ukraine are very or somewhat serious, with independents splitting roughly evenly on whether or not they favor the impeachment inquiry:


Nearly a quarter of Republicans approving of the probe is interesting (we'll see if that number falls if and when this battle grows increasingly partisan), but the real trend line to keep an eye on is among indies.  By the way, among the relatively small handful of Democrats who aren't behind the impeachment push?  Andrew Cuomo.

UPDATE - This stuff is unhinged and irresponsible from any president.  He is behaving like a cornered animal.  Trump at his worst.  Good for this Republican Congressman.  Some things cannot and should not be defended:


UPDATE II - It looks like another media outlet bungled another story about this controversy, and it looks like Adam Schiff wandered away from established facts again.  Imagine that: