Lindsey Graham took some time over the weekend to rather gleefully indulge one of President Trump’s favorite means of discrediting the impeachment effort. “When you find out who is the whistleblower is, I’m confident you’re gonna find out it’s somebody from the Deep State,” he told Maria Bartiromo on Fox News. “You’re gonna find out find they had interactions with [Adam] Schiff and this thing’s gonna stink to high heaven.”
The idea that the whistleblower is some sort of Democratic operative who needs to be identified and cross-examined, identity protection laws be damned, has gathered traction as public hearings near and Republicans remain desperate to direct attention away from the substance of the inquiry. Trump has been pushing it incessantly since the complaint was first made public in September. It was only a matter of time before it seeped into Graham’s Trump mirroring routine. “The whistleblower is foundational to what they’re doing in the House,” Graham said of the process he dismissed last week as “B.S.”
The whistleblower’s complaint may have kicked off of the impeachment inquiry, but it is no longer essential to it. Nearly all of its claims have been independently corroborated, as NPR recently pointed out in an exhaustively annotated version of the complaint.
Here are a few examples:
ALLEGATION: This is the thesis of the whistleblower’s complaint: “In the course of my official duties, I have received information from multiple U.S. Government officials that the President of the United States is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election. This interference includes, among other things, pressuring a foreign country to investigate one of the President’s main domestic political rivals. The President’s personal lawyer, Mr. Rudolph Giuliani, is a central figure in this effort. Attorney General Barr appears to be involved as well.”
CORROBORATION: Every point of this paragraph was confirmed explicitly in the partial transcript of Trump’s July 25th call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, not to mention by multiple witnesses with first-hand knowledge. The complaint goes on to detail what the whistleblower was told transpired in the call. All of these points were confirmed by the partial readout released by the White House, as well.
ALLEGATION: That the White House “intervened to “lock down” all records of the phone call” and that White House officials were told by White House lawyers to move the transcript of the call to a highly classified server typically reserved for material pertaining to national security.
CORROBORATION: Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman testified that the transcript of the call “into a different type, a different, more secure system” after he relayed his concerns about the call to National Security Council lawyers.
ALLEGATION: The whistleblower wrote that multiple officials told him that “Ukrainian leadership was led to believe that a meeting or phone call between the President and President Zelenskyy would depend on whether Zelenskyy showed willingness to “play ball.'” They note that this was the “state of affairs” conveyed to them from late May and early July.
CORROBORATION: Multiple witnesses have described a July 10th meeting at the White House in which Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, told Ukrainian officials that Zelensky receiving an invitation to visit the White House was contingent upon Ukraine launching investigations into Biden and the 2016 election.
These are just a few of the principal claims. As NPR’s annotation makes clear, even the more granular details of the complaint — such as logistics surrounding the travel of U.S. and Ukrainian officials — have been corroborated by witness testimony. The whistleblower’s complaint is, at this point, inarguably legitimate.
This also means the identity of the whistleblower is almost entirely irrelevant. High-ranking figures with first-hand knowledge of the situation have already validated the concerns that inspired the complaint. What difference does it make who in the intelligence community heard about what happened and alerted the inspector general? Even if it could somehow be proven that this person has “biases,” as Graham suggested on Sunday — so what? Trump still did all the stuff alleged in the complaint! The point of filing it was to alert investigators who can do things like call witnesses to gather more information. This is exactly what happened. Republicans clamoring for the whistleblower to be outed is like if in 1974 they responded to the Nixon White House tapes by arguing the manufacturer of the microphone was a Democrat. It is totally, and deliberately, missing the point.
But this is the hill Republicans seem content to die on, because acknowledging what actually happened would mean their careers. It’s also only going to get worse as the impeachment effort progresses. “If they don’t call the whistleblower [to testify] in the House,” Graham told Bartiromo, “this thing is dead on arrival in the Senate.”