The women of “The View,” namely Meghan McCain and Sunny Hostin, have had a particularly rollicking time in recent media cycles screaming — figuratively (mostly) — about the illegalities of naming names that should not be publicly named and warning of the crime, the federal crime, the jail-able federal crime of identifying, out loud, the whistleblower whom Democrats seem to believe is the golden key to impeach.
But sift through the shrill; step away from expressions of hate. Law is: It’s not against the law to out this whistleblower.
It’s only against the law for the inspector general to out this whistleblower.
The rest of us — memo to ladies of “The View” — maintain our First Amendment rights to freedom of speech. And yes, yes indeed, that includes the president of the United States, too. Oh, and members of the media.
Saying otherwise is a lie. Yet that hasn’t kept others from saying otherwise.
Here’s the latest: Donald Trump Jr. was a recent guest on “The View” alongside his girlfriend, the former Fox News host and attorney Kimberly Guilfoyle. During, Hostin said to Guilfoyle, “Kimberly, you’re a lawyer … did you advise your boyfriend that it is a federal crime to out a whistleblower?”
Trump Jr. jumped in and clarified, Mediaite reported, “it’s only a federal crime for the IG to do it.”
And Hostin responded: “That’s a lie.”
Hmm. Who’s right?
Sen. Rand Paul says Trump Jr.
“The whistleblower statute protects the whistleblower from having his name revealed by the inspector general. Even The New York Times admits that no one else is under any legal obligation [to protect the name],” Rand said, in a recent interview. He also said at a Trump rally he may out the whistleblower himself, in the coming days.
And for that, McCain went off the rails.
Nope; the ones sounding crazy are the ones telling all of America — from politicians to members of the media to the president to Joe Q. Citizen — that it’s a federal crime to publicly name the whistleblower.
Not even close.
“Can Trump Legally Out The Whistleblower? Experts Say It Would Not Violate Any Laws,” NPR reported, in a headline.
NPR. The public media outlet that regularly receives drubbing for its leftist slant. Yet even NPR quoted several top legal and intelligence minds as saying — drumroll, please — just what Trump Jr. said: it’s only illegal for the inspector general to out this whistleblower.
“There is no overarching protection for the identity of the whistleblower under federal law,” said Dan Meyer, a lawyer and the former executive director of the intelligence community whistleblower program, in NPR. Meaning, he should know.
“Congress has never provided that protection,” Meyer went on.
And here’s the clue Meyer knows what he’s talking about: Rand, just hours ago, blocked a resolution on Capitol Hill — pushed by the Democrats, no less — that would’ve pressed Congress and the White House to protect whistleblowers.
Why the need for the resolution if the protections are already in place?
Confusion may abound because federal law is a bit of a “patchwork” when it comes to whistleblower protections, as NPR put it. On top of that, states have their own whistleblower laws; different agencies have their own whistleblower policies; and attorneys, of course, have their own interpretations of all these whistleblower rules and laws and policies.
But fact is fact and on this, the fact is this whistleblower, the guy with the impeachment know-how for Democrats, has no legal right to remain unnamed — except by the IG. That’s according to the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act of 1998. That’s according to legal minds and intelligence experts. That’s according, even, to common-sense application of the First Amendment.
That’s not to say the whistleblower’s attorneys won’t threaten and bluster and bluff to the contrary. But they stand on shaky ground.
As far as law goes — for what law these days is worth — it’s simply not true to say the whistleblower’s name cannot be released.
• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ckchumley.
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