There’s a lot of chatter today on cable TV, in Congress, in the White House, at Bagpiper Bill Barr’s Department of Justice, between Rudy Giuliani and supporters of the president at Fox News, in the so-called liberal media, at the UN and all across America. Almost everybody has a passionate opinion about the attempted squashing of a whistleblower’s credible complaint. I have just one thing to add here: the telephone call in question, with the president innocently asking the new Ukrainian president for a small political favor, took place TWO MONTHS AGO. Let us not forget how we even know about it today, two months later.
This is another great example of why legal protection for whistleblowers is so crucial to the functioning of democracy. Without legal protections for people who take the risk of exposing apparent government corruption by our most powerful elected representatives and their appointees you cannot have democracy. The alternative to a system that protects whistleblowers is one in which unaccountable loyal appointees of an unrestrained president secretly cover up every shameful thing that looks remotely corrupt, embarrassing, illegal or compromising — even if those hidden things are actually innocent, as the president continues to insist his perfect chat with the Ukrainian president was.
There could, in theory, be a reasonable explanation for why a president withholding military aid to an embattled ally was not using the promise of that needed aid as leverage when repeatedly asking a new foreign leader for a political favor. The real danger to democracy is the cover-up that prevents us from even having the public discussion where that reasonable explanation can be offered and examined.
On the right, among Trump’s staunch defenders, this is another baseless, animus-driven witch hunt like Mueller’s shameless partisan attack that completely and totally exonerated the president, according to the most openly corrupt, partisan Attorney General of our lifetime, a man who acts as the president’s personal attorney. Trump’s base is incensed that partisans are treacherously seizing on this traitor’s treasonous “revelations” about the president’s alleged gross misconduct. Mueller found nothing whatsoever, and now this fucking nothing-burger!
Mueller, of course, found more than a hundred instances of cooperation and coordination between the Trump presidential campaign and Russians who were actively working to influence the outcome of the 2016 election in Trump’s favor. What Mueller reported he was unable to find, in part due to successful obstruction of his investigation by Trump and his allies, was proof of every element of a chargeable criminal conspiracy.
Not that fine a point, really, there was collusion aplenty, but not a chargeable criminal conspiracy, based on the limited evidence Mueller was able to put together. Mueller found that Trump and his allies welcomed Russian help in narrowly defeating Clinton in a surgically slim, precision targeted Electoral College victory that was massively influenced by sweeping and systematic Russian electoral meddling. A boatload of identified Russian operatives was also indicted by Mueller. “Russia, if you’re listening…” LOL!
Several Trump employees are currently in prison, or awaiting sentencing or trial, for lying to federal investigators and other attempts to obstruct the DOJ investigation. There are at least a dozen active criminal prosecutions in progress (all details redacted from the released report- ongoing matters). The report explicitly did not exonerate Trump for the president’s long course of obstruction of justice, a course of conduct that appears to be continuing full-tilt daily, though it seems fractured since the disclosures about Trump’s attempt to get dirt on political rival Joe Biden from the new Ukrainian president — and, even more ominously, falsely classifying it confidential for national security reasons.
Imagine if that government employee had not had the courage, and legal protection from reprisal, to make the credible and proper whistleblower complaint that the Trump administration used the Department of Justice to try to bury. If that government whistleblower making this legitimate complaint had not contacted a lawyer when the complaint was not followed up, we probably would never had heard about it.
Who got the complaint instead of Congress, as required by law? William Barr, mentioned at least five times by Mr. Trump in the transcript of the president’s talk with Ukrainian president Vlodymyr Zelensky. Instead of recusing himself, since the repeated invocation of his name had, at the very least, the strong smell of impropriety, Barr examined the complaint carefully and declared there was nothing to see in it, nothing urgent, no proof of a campaign finance violation, no proof of anything, nothing to see — as harmless to Teflon Donald as the toothless Mueller report which found absolutely no wrongdoing, according to the unimpeachable Mr. Barr.
What kind of democracy do we have without protecting whistleblowers? The will of a handful of the most dangerous and driven maniacs among us.
Just one more note, on the matter of the ellipses in the transcript of the call that Trump immediately released. It has been suggested by Trump-haters that these ellipses reflect things left out, things that could be further damaging to the president. That is hard to prove, without the recording of the call to compare the transcript to. In fairness to Mr. Trump, his unique speaking style is peppered with ellipses. Here’s his spoken defense of the innocence of his July phone call to Zelensky:
The conversation I had was largely congratulatory, with largely corruption, all of the corruption taking place, it was largely the fact that we don’t want our people like Vice President Biden and his son creating to the corruption already in the Ukraine…
add ellipses to taste…