While most Republicans on Capitol Hill march in lockstep behind the Trump Administration during the impeachment inquiry, GOP Senator Chuck Grassley has broken ranks with his party to throw his support behind the unnamed whistleblower at the heart of the investigations.
“This person appears to have followed the whistleblower protection laws and ought to be heard out and protected. We should always work to respect whistleblowers,” said Sen. Grassley, who has fashioned his political career on the defense of whistleblowers.
The plight of the individual whose Aug. 12 complaint alerted congressional intelligence committees to alleged wrongdoing in the Oval Office is a sterling example of the abuse, harassment, and threats that whistleblowers too often face.
Since allegations emerged that Trump sought help from Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to smear Joe Biden, Trump has sought to expose the whistleblower’s identity, discredit the allegations as having partisan motives, and suggest those involved are spies and should be killed.
“You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart? Right? The spies and treason, we used to handle it a little differently than we do now,” Trump can be heard saying in a private meeting caught on video.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said at a press conference Oct. 2 that Trump’s attacks on the whistleblower amounted to an “incitement of violence.”
Whether in government, business, or other organization, individuals who put everything on the line to call out wrongdoing typically find themselves facing personally diminishing, career-destroying forms of backlash. Intimidation, harassment, humiliation, threats, isolation, ostracizing, blacklisting, and false accusations in addition to job loss, demotion, and reduction in pay or benefits are common types of whistleblower retaliation.
Beasley Allen lawyers Larry Golston, Lance Gould and Leon Hampton recently represented a whistleblower who exposed an illegal kickback and false billing scheme at a mortuary and crematory that defrauded the Alabama Organ Center and taxpayers. The whistleblower in that case, Barry Taul, suffered “one of the most horrifying cases involving intimidation and retaliation” Mr. Golston said he has seen in his career in law.
Mr. Taul suffered physical abuse at the hands of his employers, Nagel Enterprises, Inc., dba Abanks Mortuary & Crematory and its owner Jed Nagel. He also received multiple death threats against him and his family in an effort to intimidate him so he would not report the wrongdoing. After he eventually left his job with that company and reported the fraud, Mr. Taul was disparaged and falsely maligned to future employers, resulting in his being wrongly terminated from other positions.
“Mr. Taul faced personal danger to do the right thing and report it when he witnessed illegal activity that was cheating government health care programs,” said Mr. Golston. “His employer went to great lengths to silence him, even to the point of threatening to cremate him alive.”
In February of last year, an Alabama jury reached a verdict in favor of Mr. Taul, and U.S. District Judge Virginia Hopkins entered judgment against the defendants in the amount of more than $14.7 million.
Fighting to protect a whistleblower
Back on Capitol Hill, Sen. Grassley continues to stave off attacks on the Trump whistleblower and attempts to reveal the informant’s identity. He also stood with the Intelligence community in pushing back against Trump and other Republicans who say the whistleblower’s claims carry no weight because he or she had no direct, first-hand knowledge of Trump’s alleged wrongdoing.
“This person appears to have followed the whistleblower protection laws and ought to be heard out and protected. We should always work to respect whistleblowers,” Sen. Grassley said. “Complaints based on second-hand information should not be rejected out of hand, but they do require additional leg work to get at the facts and evaluate the claim’s credibility.”
In statements that seem intended to enlighten his fellow Republican lawmakers, Sen. Grassley said:
“When it comes to whether someone qualifies as a whistleblower, the distinctions being drawn between first- and second-hand knowledge aren’t legal ones. It’s just not part of whistleblower protection law or any agency policy,” he said, referring to whistleblower legislation he helped write to protect government employees.
Little is known about the whistleblower who triggered the impeachment inquiry, except that he or she is a member of the U.S. Intelligence Community. The New York Times and Washington Post have reported that the whistleblower is a CIA officer, but neither source identified him by name.
The Inspector General of the Intelligence Community (ICIG) also issued a statement refuting Republican claims that the whistleblower’s allegations are invalid.
“The whistleblower stated on the form that he or she possessed both first-hand and other information,” the statement read. “The ICIG reviewed the information provided as well as other information gathered and determined that the complaint was both urgent and that it appeared credible. ”
Meanwhile, Sen. Grassley expressed frustration with administration officials and others who tout government transparency yet attack whistleblowers with credible information of illegal activity.
“They all say they’re going to respect whistleblowers but they end up not doing it. Every cabinet person that comes in is well intended about protecting whistleblowers and then they’re treated like a skunk at a picnic,” Sen, Grassley said.