Update (11/13/19): Whistleblower Aid, the organization running the fundraiser for the original whistleblower, has sent a statement to Media Matters. It’s been added at the end of the post.
Fox News on Tuesday began hyping a new rhetorical assault against the unnamed intelligence community whistleblower whose original complaint touched off the House impeachment inquiry: Somebody else has filed a new whistleblower complaint against them.
But when actually examining the new report, it is clear what this story really is: a trolling operation, meant to muddy the waters and cast suspicions on the person whose report of President Donald Trump’s communications with Ukraine set off the current controversy — perhaps just to claim that they are now under some kind of investigation themselves.
(In the interest of helping the reader to keep track of what exactly is going on here, let’s call this key person the original whistleblower — or “OWB.”)
Fox reported on this new complaint, filed with the same intelligence community inspector general by an individual whom Fox reports is a “holder of a top-secret SCI security clearance and has served in government.” The attorney for this new complainant claims that it’s “not about politics for my client — it's whistleblower-on-whistleblower,” and that this is about making sure that “government ethics rules are being complied with government-wide.”
On his radio show, Sean Hannity also promoted this new whistleblower complaint — which he called a “real whistleblower report,” in contrast to the complaint from “the old, phony whistleblower” — and teased an upcoming interview with the attorney involved on his Fox TV show.
The two-page letter from the new complainant’s attorney claims that donations to the GoFundMe for the OWB’s legal defense constitute a “gift” to a government official “because of his prior status, authority, or duties associated with the employee’s federal position” with the National Security Council.
By this logic, if all cases of donations to a fund for paying legal fees would constitute a personal “gift,” then every kind of legal defense fund -- which already have various regulations in place -- would inherently be an act of bribery. (Hannity, by the way, personally promoted the legal defense fund of Michael Flynn.)
The letter also claims, without any evidence, that the new complainant “believes that many of these donations are from ‘prohibited sources’” such as “a foreign citizen or agent of a foreign government.”
In fact, as Fox’s own online report shows, the GoFundMe page for the OWB declares that “donations will only be accepted from U.S. citizens,” and the OWB’s attorney, Andrew Bakaj, told Fox that all fundraising activities “have complied with federal laws,” adding, “Should any governmental agency properly inquire we would, of course, cooperate.”
Finally, the new complaint makes it clear that this is really all about attempting to criminalize the OWB’s report in the first place: “We are requesting you investigate whether [criminal statutes or regulations have] been violated by the federal employee you are protecting when they reportedly requested an investigation into a matter that they had no direct personal knowledge of, and on account of which they were able to obtain sizeable gifts from unknown persons because of their official duty.”
John Tye, founder and CEO of Whistleblower Aid, released the following statement:
This complaint is nothing more than an effort to attack a lawful, and therefore protected, whistleblower. Ultimately, this is an effort to muddy the waters, distract, and reprise.
Our GoFundMe campaign fully complies with federal law and all ethics requirements, and it has been vetted by outside counsel. To be clear: not a penny will go to the whistleblower.
We are collecting donations to provide pro bono representation and security for the whistleblower and their legal team.
Given the ceaseless attacks on the whistleblower and their legal team, we are continuing to accept donations from non-prohibited sources at helpthewhistleblower.org.