Game-Changer: Ukraine Whistleblower Never Witnessed Anything, Scandal Is Hearsay
Part of the fun when any Trump-related scandal breaks is to see how far down in a story incredibly pertinent exculpatory information is buried.
Take the Ukraine whistleblower scandal. CNN’s Stephen Collinson wrote an analysis of the complaint that was published last week. It sounded pretty dire.
The first few paragraphs recapped what was known at the time: A whistleblower had expressed grave concern over a call President Donald Trump had made with a foreign leader, tentatively identified as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. That report “has also injected a toxic element into relations among the President, the intelligence community and Congress.”
“It is hard to see how any of this ends well,” Collinson wrote.
“Six months after special counsel Robert Mueller shut up shop,” he wrote, “the White House again faces suspicion over Trump’s dealings with a foreign power and seems to be taking steps to stop the full story from coming out.
“Democrats are rummaging for new skeletons in Trump’s closet and yet another showdown is developing between the executive and Congress that appears almost certain to play out in the courts.”
This is pretty serious stuff, particularly since Collinson reminded us the Trump administration has “urged the Kiev government to open investigations that the President could use to raise suspicions about his political rivals, including Joe Biden.”
If you’re reading this, you probably know most of what was described between paragraphs one and 21.
The whistleblower talked about an unspecified “promise” Trump made to the foreign leader, the acting director of national intelligence has declined to turn the report over, this is Very Serious, Trump is tweeting Very Bad Stuff in defense of himself — the whole rigamarole.
Heck, the very fact that he defended himself in the strongest possible terms was conceivably evidence of the president’s guilt, according to Collinson.
“There must at least be a possibility that Trump abused his power or committed a grievous ethical lapse in dealing with the foreign leader,” he wrote.
“His defense was not exactly reassuring, considering some of the wild comments the President has made in the company of rogue counterparts such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.”
So, that was paragraphs 1-21. Here’s paragraph 22, with a bit of emphasis in bold from myself:
“The whistleblower didn’t have direct knowledge of the communications, an official briefed on the matter told CNN. Instead, the whistleblower’s concerns came in part from learning information that was not obtained during the course of their work, and those details have played a role in the administration’s determination that the complaint didn’t fit the reporting requirements under the intelligence whistleblower law, the official said.”
In other words, the star witness for the Democrats never witnessed anything.
In a tweet the day after the story was published, Fox News’ Brit Hume pointed out the obvious: This meant the whistleblower’s claim was “hearsay.”
Here’s a “new revelation” in this article: the whistleblower complaint is based on hearsay. From the article: “The whistleblower didn’t have direct knowledge of the communications, an official briefed on the matter told CNN.” https://t.co/rPPVRD88Qp
— Brit Hume (@brithume) September 21, 2019
While we’re having fun with buried information, let’s try a more sober source: a putatively straight-news report on the allegations from The New York Times, published Thursday.
It’s a pretty extensive recap of what was known about the whistleblower’s allegations up to that point. Again, you have to read pretty deep into the story to uncover this information in paragraphs 37 and 38:
“And while Mr. Trump may have discussed intelligence activities with the foreign leader, he enjoys broad power as president to declassify intelligence secrets, order the intelligence community to act and otherwise direct the conduct of foreign policy as he sees fit, legal experts said.
“Mr. Trump regularly speaks with foreign leaders and is often unfettered. Some current and former officials said that what an intelligence official took to be a troubling commitment could have been an innocuous comment.” (Again, emphasis mine.)
This came several paragraphs after House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, was quoted as openly accusing the White House of a coverup for not passing on the whistleblower report to Congress. You know, the report that’s based on hearsay.
“I don’t think this is a problem of the law,” Schiff said. “I think the law is written very clearly. I think the law is just fine.
“The problem lies elsewhere. And we’re determined to do everything we can to determine what this urgent concern is, to make sure that the national security is protected and to make sure that this whistle-blower is protected.”
So, in short: The report is hearsay and we don’t necessarily know whether the whistleblower interpreted the information correctly in the first place, but let’s accuse the White House of a deliberate coverup.
Mind you, accusing the White House of a coverup is actually quite mild as these things go. The most wild response thus far probably has to have come from one of Trump’s Republican primary challengers, former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld.
Appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Weld said that the call Trump placed to the president of Ukraine wasn’t “just undermining democratic institutions, that is treason. It’s treason, pure and simple.”
“And the penalty for treason under the U.S. Code is death,” he said. “That’s the only penalty.”
I wonder what Collinson might say about those “wild comments.”
In short, we’re having a national conversation about a coverup that could lead to impeachment — or, if you listen to Bill Weld, the death penalty — based on a whistleblower’s description of a conversation he or she wasn’t actually privy to.
Funny how that last part almost always seems to get buried.
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