Who Does the Whistleblower Know?
I've grown increasingly curious — hell, let's say suspicious — about the most recent incarnation of the three-year effort to find a case for impeaching Trump. This is, of course, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) and the Democrat members' "impeachment investigation."
Take it as read that we now know the Ukrainian investigation of Burisma — the Ukrainian gas company for which Biden apparently interceded while in office, and where Hunter Biden had a very well paid sinecure — started long before Trump's controversial call; that the President of Ukraine has said on the record he didn't feel he was pressured at all by Trump's call; and that Biden admitted on video using aid to Ukraine to pressure the then-government to fire the prosecutor that was investigating the company.
Neither Trump's call nor Biden's on-video bragging about having the power to cancel aid seems to be in question. We have a video, and we have the transcript of the call.
(Just to forestall some of the rent-a-commenters, I'm going to call it a transcript. Yes, it's not word for word, but multiple people have testified that it's as good as, because it's the collation of notes taken by a number of members of the IC. As such, it has multiple vettings, including — not coincidentally — the IC members who served as sources for the original whistleblower. Anyone who has listened to Trump talk knows that he can be maddeningly repetitive, which the note-takers wouldn't include, but would indicate with ellipses. And seriously, how big a fool do you have to be to believe that the transcript would have some kind of incriminating information elided and the elisions then indicated with ellipses?)
Here's what we know about the whistleblowing:
- The first whistleblower (WB1) had an issue with what s/he heard about (not heard directly) the Trump phone call to the president of Ukraine and felt Trump was out of bounds for asking Ukraine to investigate Crowdstrike and apparent Biden-family graft.
- WB1 then notified Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee of his unease. House members, including both Adam Schiff and Nancy Pelosi, started revealing parts of WB1's complaint before it had been filed with the Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG).
- Contrary to House rules, the Democrats on the committee did not share the information with the Republicans on the committee.
- When WB1's complaint was actually filed, it was a well-written legal brief that, oddly, turned out to have no part that was first-hand knowledge, and even more oddly referenced a lot of public press coverage.
- In an odd turn, the direction given by the ICIG's office, that whistleblower complaints must be based on first-hand information, was rescinded enabling the second-hand WB1 complaint to be considered. This rescission apparently happened in September but was backdated to August.
- WB1's complaint also turned out to have a number of factual errors.
- After the Democrats demanded the release of the transcript, Trump declassified the transcript, upon which the demands were changed to releasing WB1's complaint. Which Trump then did.
- The House Democrats refuse to make public WB1's name, but the ICIG testified that the complaint was questionable because WB1 was not just a registered Democrat but was professionally associated with a current Democrat's 2020 campaign.
This already adds up to a suspicious sum: second-hand information, factual errors, backdated changes in guidance, questionable sourcing, and a suspiciously back-door — and potentially illegal — contact with the HSPCI majority before the complaint was filed, violating House rules.
Trump's declassification put WB1 in a bad light: the actual call transcript doesn't appear to fit the WB1 narrative, and the complaint itself appeared to have a lot of political input.
The Democrats' process has some really questionable aspects as well. First of all, the irregular contacts with WB1 before the complaint was filed, and the violation of House rules by not notifying the Republican minority. Then secondly, hearing testimony from the ICIG and from former Ambassador Kurt Volker, with the Democrats leaking selected parts of the testimony but refusing to make the testimony public. (What we know about the testimony comes from anonymous sources "familiar with the testimony," which almost certainly means Republicans on the HPSCI or their staff.)
At least some of the leaked Volker testimony seems to support Trump's contention that there was nothing unusual about the call.
So by the end of the week, WB1's complaint was looking pretty weak, whereupon the New York Times reported that a second whistleblower was "considering" coming forward. (Look away from that curtain, though, and don't ask how a whistleblower can be "considering" coming forward in a story in the NYT.) This new whistleblower — call him/her WB2 — is supposed to have actually been on the call with Ukraine. According to a memo written by WB1:
A White House official (WB2) listening to President Donald Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukraine's president described the call as "crazy" and "frightening" and was "visibly shaken," according to notes taken by the intelligence official who filed a formal whistleblower complaint after speaking with the official, and others.
Now, we've got the transcript. Aside from the congratulations, it seems Trump asked Zelensky for two things: an investigation into Crowdstrike, the company that performed the forensic examination of the DNC servers in lieu of the FBI, and cooperation in investigating the Biden's — pere et fil's — involvement in the suspended prosecution of Ukrainian company Burisma, which employed Hunter Biden. This is what is supposed to have been "crazy" and "frightening" and left WB2 "visibly shaken."
Now, what could have been so emotionally charged in that call? The transcript seems relatively low-key: no shouting, no screaming, and if there were any threats they were phrased very diplomatically.
It seems to me — and this is just a plausible inference, I'm not asserting it's the truth — it seems to me that the only people who would be "visibly shaken" by that would be someone who already has guilty knowledge of Crowdstrike, Burisma, or both.
Now, look at the really just astonishing irregularity of the "impeachment inquiry": not just refusing to take it to the floor of the House, but the secrecy, the selective cherry-picking of releases, and the plan to prevent Republican members — not to mention the nation — from learning anything about either WB1 or WB2.
I think the most plausible inference is that the whistleblowers are connected to Biden's campaign, or to the DNC, and were shaken by the possibility of Biden and Crowdstrike being investigated because they know there is something there to be found.
It's time for the Democrat majority on HPSCI to come clean: what did they know, when did they know it, and who are they really protecting with their unprecedented secrecy?