IG Found Whistleblower Had Signs of 'Political Bias' for 'Rival Candidate,' According to WH Doc Reported by Fox News
If there’s one unimpeachable (pun unintended) character in the Trump whistleblower kerfuffle, it’s been Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson. He’s a Trump appointee, after all, and he was the one whose report started the ball rolling on this whole thing.
On Tuesday, announcing an impeachment inquiry into the president, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made sure to mention who appointed him right at the top.
“Last Tuesday, we had the anniversary of the adoption of the Constitution on Sept. 17,” she said.
“Sadly, on that day, the intelligence community inspector general formally notified the Congress that the administration was forbidding him from turning over a whistleblower complaint on Constitution Day. This is a violation of law.
“Shortly thereafter, press reports began to break of a phone call by the president of the United States calling upon a foreign power to intervene in his election,” she continued.
“This is a breach of his constitutional responsibilities. The facts are these: The intelligence community inspector general, who is appointed by President Trump, determined that the complaint is both of urgent concern and credible. And its disclosure relates to one of the most significant and importance of director of national intelligence responsibility to the American people.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi announces that the House of Representatives is opening an impeachment inquiry into President Trump pic.twitter.com/vZRq5PQxIt
— Axios (@axios) September 24, 2019
Later on Tuesday, however, we learned from a Fox News report that there is another aspect of the inspector general’s report that should (but won’t) give Democrats pause.
“A senior Trump administration official told Fox News late Tuesday that the administration will release a document showing the intelligence community inspector general found the whistleblower who leveled an explosive accusation against President Trump concerning his talks with Ukraine had indications of ‘political bias’ in favor of ‘a rival candidate’ of the president,” the network reported.
If the IG report named who the candidate was, the senior official didn’t disclose it. However, The Federalist separately reported that the attorney for the whistleblower, Andrew Bakaj, has done work for Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer. The attorney has also donated to Joe Biden.
That tidbit got largely lost in the flurry of news in Washington on Tuesday and Wednesday. In addition to the impeachment inquiry beginning in earnest, the Trump administration released the unredacted transcript of his call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and politicians from both parties viewed the whistleblower complaint, agreeing it should be released to Congress.
However, the fact that the inspector general’s report made note of the fact that the whistleblower had a “political bias” for a “rival candidate” to Trump is a disturbing detail for at least two reasons.
First, I’ve attended this rodeo before, although the riders weren’t anonymous. They were named Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, Bruce Ohr and Christopher Steele.
If the Democrats aren’t going to examine this angle — thus far, they don’t seem to even want to acknowledge it — what they’re going to be stuck with is another investigation where some of the principals have a demonstrated political bias, which becomes a serious liability on their part. The situations aren’t entirely analogous, but both involved individual actors whose motives or mentality could be called into question.
The cognitive political biases of the whistleblower plays into the second issue: He or she did not witness the phone call in question firsthand. At best, the whistleblower’s knowledge of Trump’s conversation with Zelensky came via a second-hand source.
This leads to a “Rashomon”-like situation: How exactly are we to trust the interpretation of a phone conversation that a whistleblower wasn’t even there for when the inspector general felt it necessary to note the whistleblower’s partisanship?
This doesn’t necessarily invalidate the whistleblower’s complaint, mind you. In an opinion released Wednesday by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, the office stated that “[a]lthough the ICIG’s preliminary review found ‘some indicia of an arguable political bias on the part of the Complainant in favor of a rival political candidate,’ the ICIG concluded that the complaint’s allegations nonetheless appeared credible.”
That being said, congressional leaders have seen the whistleblower complaint and the White House plans to release it, so we’ll all soon get to decide just how well-founded those fears were.
However, given what we know about the fact the whistleblower wasn’t in on the call and the partisan biases that might be filtering whatever information the whistleblower got, this looks a lot worse for the pitchfork-wielding pro-impeachment Democrats than it did a week ago.
Given that, my guess is that their views on the spotlessness of Inspector General Michael Atkinson might indeed change.
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