It has to be John Bolton. Not because the lawyer, Mark Zaid, claims that this new whistleblower has “firsthand” knowledge of some of the allegations in the original whistleblower complaint, which a former NSA would. It’s because we live in an absurd reality show and Bolton coming forward to accuse Trump would be the most absurdly melodramatic plot twist imaginable. It must be him.
I don’t think it’s him.
Zaid tells ABC News’ Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos that the second person — also described as an intelligence official — has first-hand knowledge of some of the allegations outlined in the original complaint and has been interviewed by the head of the intelligence community’s internal watchdog office, Michael Atkinson…
Zaid says both officials have full protection of the law intended to protect whistleblowers from being fired in retaliation. While this second official has spoken with the IG — the internal watchdog office created to handle complaints — this person has not communicated yet with the congressional committees conducting the investigation.
Hmmm. The NYT reported on Friday that a second whistleblower was “weighing” whether to file his own complaint and testify to Congress. The Times described him as an “intelligence official” and noted that he had been interviewed by Atkinson, which corresponds to the person now being represented by Zaid — although Zaid says he can’t be sure that his client and the person described by the Times are the same person. That is, in theory, there’s a *third* whistleblower weighing whether to speak up.
Although probably not. The mystery man in the Times story and Zaid’s new client are presumably the same person.
There’s no word yet about him filing a complaint of his own. Maybe he doesn’t need to if all he’s doing is corroborating the allegations in the first whistleblower’s complaint. Which raises a question: When did Atkinson, the IG, interview the second whistleblower — before or after the original whistleblower complaint became public? Obviously, if the second whistleblower had read the allegations in the complaint before speaking to Atkinson, it would have been much easier for him to tailor a lie to “corroborate” the complaint’s allegations. If instead Atkinson interviewed him before the complaint went public, possibly as part of his initial investigation to gauge the first whistleblower’s credibility, then the corroboration from the second would be more damning. Remember that the first whistleblower claimed that he’d pieced together information relayed to him by “more than half a dozen U.S. officials” for his complaint. Possibly the second whistleblower is one of those people and is prepared to say now that allegations in the complaint match with what he told the complainant.
Another obvious question is what, exactly, the second whistleblower has “firsthand” knowledge of.
— Does he know something about a quid pro quo, specifically whether Trump ever endorsed one? I’m guessing no, as he’d have to be way up the totem pole in the White House to have information like that. That really might be a Bolton scenario.
— Was he on the call with Trump and Zelensky? If so, meh: There isn’t anything in the complaint about the call that hasn’t already been corroborated by the White House’s own “transcript” of it. The first whistleblower claimed that Trump had raised the issues of the CrowdStrike server and the Biden investigation with Zelensky and had referred him to Bill Barr and Rudy Giuliani for further discussions. All of that was true. So what do we need the second whisteblower to corroborate? One possibility: Some critics have wondered about the presence of ellipses in the transcript, all of which “come at some of the most problematic junctures of the conversation.” If the second whistleblower is going to claim that the transcript was redacted to omit material statements, that’d be a big deal. But there’s no indication of that.
— Can he confirm the first whistleblower’s claim that the transcript was moved from the standard server for call transcripts to a top-secret server in order to restrict access to it? The Times reported last week that the White House has done that with transcripts of other Trump calls with world leaders, including Putin and Mohammed bin Salman, and that the practice began in 2017 after the media claimed that he had inadvertently revealed classified information in a chat with the Russian foreign minister. I don’t believe the White House has officially confirmed the practice so corroboration from the second whistleblower would be useful here. That’s my best guest at the “firsthand knowledge” he possesses, but whether it matters is unclear. Some Obama-era officials see the practice as “disturbing,” essentially an attempt to obstruct justice potentially, whereas some of the sources who spoke to the NYT say it’s a natural response to all the leaks within the White House.
One other question: Is the second whistleblower a Republican? The IG admitted that there was reason initially to fear bias by the first whistleblower but he deemed the allegations in the complaint credible anyway after looking into them. CNN later reported that the unspecified evidence of bias was the fact that the whistleblower is a registered Democrat. If the new whistleblower is a registered Republican, that would complicate the “Democratic smear” narrative. Although only a little — the guy will naturally be dismissed as a RINO and Never Trumper and thus his perspective can be safely discounted too.
Are we about to see a dam break here, by the way? The first guy speaks up, the second guy finds some courage from his example, and maybe a few more find inspiration in that. I wonder, though, how Democrats plan to deal with protecting the anonymity of both whistleblowers if Trump is impeached and either, or both, are needed to testify before the Senate at Trump’s trial. It’s fine to have these unnamed tipsters at the investigation stage but that ain’t gonna cut it once Senate Republicans are being asked to remove a sitting president of their own party from office. Would the Senate go into closed session to hear their testimony? Trump’s lawyers would certainly need the opportunity to cross-examine them if they testify. There’s zero chance that their identities wouldn’t leak afterward if they did that, though, and both whistleblowers know it, so presumably they won’t testify at all.