Rand Paul took a lot of flak yesterday for his demand to the media Monday night to “do your job and print his [the Ukraine-Gate whistleblower’s] name,” but the Kentucky senator took a more nuanced tack on Tuesday. Paul believes that the Sixth Amendment should prevail in any impeachment effort launched under the Constitution’s auspices, which means that Trump — or his defenders — should have the right to face his accusers. However, Paul wants the whistleblower subpoenaed to testify in another matter entirely:

Curiously, despite Paul’s admonition to the media, he doesn’t name the whistleblower in this interview either. Hmmmm. We’ll get back to the constitutional argument in a moment, which may or may not apply, but the second point is interesting too:

PAUL: Here is the second thing. Now that we now know who the whistleblower is, we know that the whistleblower was involved with Joe Biden at the time Hunter Biden was receiving all this money from a Ukrainian oligarch. So really, the whistleblower is a material witness as to the corruption with Hunter Biden and Joe Biden. So that whistleblower needs to come forward simply as a material witness, really having nothing to do with the fact that they are or are not the whistleblower.

So I think this person needs to be subpoenaed, and I suspect that it is going to happen. It’s going to be in the public, and that there will be a subpoena — at least an attempt to get a subpoena. And the question is, are the Democrats going to allow a process where we can discover the president wanting this information on Hunter Biden, whether or not there really was corruption involved.

Paul likely was springboarding off of the State Department e-mails that John Solomon found, in which Hunter and Devon Archer came up in the month before Joe Biden’s infamous quid pro quo showdown with Petro Poroshenko. However, it’s far from clear that the person most named as the likely suspect for the leak would have any knowledge of that at all. If the intel analyst worked the Ukraine desk, he certainly might have known about Hunter’s work and his contacts back at the State Department. Would he know much more than, say, Undersecretary of State Catherine Novelli, who was urged to meet with a Burisma rep with Hunter’s involvement as context? Or the person who passed along the request?

Besides, this argument is a little disingenuous. Republicans want to call the whistleblower as a material witness to this investigation, specifically on the question as to whether Adam Schiff cooked up the complaint in the first place. Citing the earlier instance of potential corruption launders that motive a bit, but only a bit.

It’s also disingenuous for another reason, and that involves the constitutional question as well. Senate Republicans will get every opportunity to subpoena this person and many others if the House approves articles of impeachment. That is actually where Trump (or his legal and political team) will face his accusers. The House is conducting something similar to a grand jury process, which in legal terms does not give accused a process to face their accusers at all. It’s a closed process controlled by the prosecution. We can certainly argue that an impeachment process should require accusers to step into the light, considering the stakes, and certainly can assess its credibility on such a basis, but there’s no constitutional right for Trump to demand that of the House.

Plus, there’s the need to protect legitimate whistleblowers who step forward to expose wrongdoing. Does this one qualify as such, however? When you’ve lost Rolling Stone and Matt Taibbi, as happened in early October …

The unnamed person at the center of this story sure didn’t sound like a whistleblower. Our intelligence community wouldn’t wipe its ass with a real whistleblower. …

With that in mind, let’s look at what we know about the first “whistleblower” in Ukrainegate:

  • He or she is a “CIA officer detailed to the White House”;
  • The account is at best partially based upon the CIA officer’s own experience, made up substantially by information from “more than a half dozen U.S. officials” and the “private accounts” of “my colleagues”;
  • “He or she” was instantly celebrated as a whistleblower by news networks and major newspapers.

That last detail caught the eye of Kiriakou, a former CIA Counterterrorism official who blew the whistle on the agency’s torture program.

“It took me and my lawyers a full year to get [the media] to stop calling me ‘CIA Leaker John Kirakou,” he says. “That’s how long it took for me to be called a whistleblower.”

That’s why we can expect the Senate trial of any impeachment to take a very serious look at this origin story for Ukraine-Gate. In that process, Republicans will control subpoena power and run the depositions. By the time they get done with the whistleblower and Adam Schiff’s staffers, they might do some real damage to whistleblowing, but also do some damage as well to the idea that political hit jobs come cost-free for anyone participating in them– especially already-established political players. As Taibbi concludes, this has just been a partisan/elitist brawl disguised as whistleblowing since its very beginning.