Report: Ukraine whistleblower had a professional tie to a Democratic presidential candidate

An intriguing scoop, although the fact that this vague clue to the guy’s identity is being leaked by Republicans to Byron York helps explain why Dems are convinced the whistleblower will be outed in a nanosecond after he testifies unless his identity is concealed somehow.

Now, however, there is word of more evidence of possible bias on the whistleblower’s part. Under questioning from Republicans during last Friday’s impeachment inquiry interview with Atkinson, the inspector general revealed that the whistleblower’s possible bias was not that he was simply a registered Democrat. It was that he had a significant tie to one of the Democratic presidential candidates currently vying to challenge President Trump in next year’s election.

“The IG said [the whistleblower] worked or had some type of professional relationship with one of the Democratic candidates,” said one person with knowledge of what was said…

“What [Atkinson] said was that the whistleblower self-disclosed that he was a registered Democrat and that he had a prior working relationship with a current 2020 Democratic presidential candidate,” said a third person with knowledge of what was said.

One obvious possibility is that the unnamed Democratic presidential candidate is Joe Biden himself. If you think this matter is a clusterfark now, imagine if it turns out that the guy who complained to the IG about Trump trying to jumpstart an investigation of the Bidens once … worked for Biden. That’s the most likely bet too, no? Biden spent decades in the Senate and eight years as VP, when he would have interacted with all sorts of intelligence personnel. There’s no one in the Democratic field (at least the top tier) who’s more likely to have had a “professional connection” to someone in the intel bureaucracy than Grandpa Joe.

There’s a less obvious possibility but one with similarly interesting political consequences. What if the whistleblower worked with or for one of Biden’s chief rivals, whether Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren? A “registered Democrat” (as the whistleblower reportedly is) would have a partisan reason to damage Trump no matter what, but offering Biden as the victim in a story about Trump leaning on a foreign government to investigate an opponent would risk creating sympathy for Joe among Democratic voters. Not an obvious move if you’re a Warren or Sanders supporter.

Question: Unless the unnamed candidate is one of the big three, in which case the question of bias sharpens up, does the whistleblower’s relationship with someone in the field matter? It matters potentially, I think, if it turns out the whistleblower was working in a political role for that person, e.g., if they volunteered for Cory Booker’s Senate campaign, say. That would suggest that they’re not just a registered Democrat, they’re passionate about politics. Passionate people are more prone to bias. But if it turns out the whistleblower was some sort of CIA liaison to Booker’s Senate office or whatever, well, so what? What do we glean from that? Remember, for what it’s worth, Atkinson says his investigation of the complaint confirmed that the allegations are credible. Being a member of the wrong party doesn’t mean you’re necessarily lying.

There’s other whistleblower news this afternoon. Hmmmm:

A White House official who listened to President Trump’s July phone call with Ukraine’s leader described it as “crazy,” “frightening,” and “completely lacking in substance related to national security,” according to a memo written by the whistle-blower at the center of the Ukraine scandal, a C.I.A. officer who spoke to the White House official.

The White House official was “visibly shaken by what had transpired,” the C.I.A. officer wrote in his memo, one day after Mr. Trump pressured President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine in a July 25 phone call to open investigations that would benefit him politically…

“The official stated that there was already a conversation underway with White House lawyers about how to handle the discussion because, in the official’s view, the president had clearly committed a criminal act by urging a foreign power to investigate a U.S. person for the purposes of advancing his own re-election bid in 2020,” the C.I.A. officer wrote.

Is it John Bolton? Please say it’s John Bolton.

A few obvious questions about this. One: Is the “visibly shaken” White House official the same person who’s now come forward as the second whistleblower? Whistleblower #2 is alleged to have firsthand knowledge of some of Trump’s conduct towards Ukraine. Listening in on the call would fit the bill.

Two: How high up in the food chain is this person? Not just everyone gets to listen in on the president’s calls, especially a call in which POTUS intended to lean on the president of Ukraine for help with investigating the Bidens.

Three: Was there more to the call than what was relayed by the official White House quasi-transcript? Questions have been raised about the use of ellipses at key points in that document. Did Trump say something to “frighten” this official that didn’t make it into the transcript?

Four: How many other White House officials, lawyers included, came to the conclusion that the president might have broken the law with what he said to Zelensky? A key Republican defense of Trump during an impeachment trial will be that, however shady his behavior may be, it simply doesn’t amount to “high crime or misdemeanor” — or even a crime of any kind. If there are people in the White House itself who know what was said and who disagree with that judgment, that’s hugely helpful to Democrats. “Trump did commit a crime,” they’ll say. “Just ask his own advisors who were there.”

This also helps show, though, why it doesn’t matter *that* much who the whistleblower is. No one’s removing Trump from office based on something some guy heard secondhand from someone else. The point of the Democratic investigation is to find out who this “frightened” White House official is and convince that person to testify. Senate Republicans aren’t ousting the president over hearsay but there’s at least a hypothetical chance they’d oust him if they heard from a primary witness who said, “I was there, I heard the whole thing, and it was worse than you can imagine.”