Paul's demand to out whistleblower rankles GOP colleagues

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulMcConnell: Impeachment distracted government from coronavirus threat Warren knocks McConnell for forcing in-person Senate vote amid coronavirus pandemic House chairwoman diagnosed with 'presumed' coronavirus infection MORE (R-Ky.) is facing a landslide of opposition from his own party over his call to publicly out the anonymous whistleblower whose concerns about President TrumpDonald John TrumpIllinois governor says state has gotten 10 percent of medical equipments it's requested Biden leads Trump by 6 points in national poll Tesla offers ventilators free of cost to hospitals, Musk says MORE’s interactions with Ukraine helped spark the House’s impeachment inquiry. 

Paul’s demand, made during an appearance with the president at a rally in Kentucky on Monday, marks the latest escalation by President Trump and his allies, who have called the whistleblower’s credibility into question and clamored for the person’s identity to be disclosed.

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But several GOP senators, from rank-and-file members through leadership, distanced themselves from the idea on Tuesday, warning such a move could erode protections promised to the whistleblower.

“I think whistleblowers have the right to remain confidential and their privacy ought to be respected,” Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyGranting cash payments is a conservative principle 7 things to know about the coronavirus stimulus package Scarborough rips Trump for mocking Romney's negative coronavirus test: 'Could have been a death sentence' MORE (Utah), who has emerged as a vocal GOP critic of Trump’s, said on Tuesday. 

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGOP presses for swift Ratcliffe confirmation to intel post Campaigns pivot toward health awareness as races sidelined by coronavirus Senate eyes quick exit after vote on coronavirus stimulus package MORE (R-Maine), a member of the Intelligence Committee who is up for reelection next year, said she also doesn’t believe the individual’s identity should be made public. 

“Whistleblowers are entitled to protection under the law ... To try to reveal the identity of this individual is contrary to the intent of the whistleblower law,” Collins added. 

They were backed up by members of GOP leadership. 

“I don’t agree with that,” Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoState Department under fire as 13K Americans remain stranded abroad Senators balance coronavirus action with risks to health Heidi Klum says she tried to get a coronavirus test: 'I just can't get one' MORE (W.Va.), a member of GOP leadership, told The Hill. “I think the whistleblower can remain anonymous if that’s what they want.” 

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneTrump's magical thinking won't stop the coronavirus pandemic Lawmakers brace for more coronavirus legislation after trillion bill The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Airbnb - Senate overcomes hurdles, passes massive coronavirus bill MORE (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, floated the idea of the whistleblower eventually coming forward "voluntarily" but said in the meantime “the whistleblower statute is designed to protect people.” 

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntHillicon Valley: Apple rolls out coronavirus screening app, website | Pompeo urged to crack down on coronavirus misinformation from China | Senators push FTC on price gouging | Instacart workers threaten strike Lawmakers already planning more coronavirus stimulus after T package Senate Democrats vow to keep pushing for more funds for mail-in voting MORE (R-Mo.) said he disagreed with Paul but does want the whistleblower to speak with the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is reviewing the process behind the complaint. 

“That’s not my view,” Blunt said of Paul. “But it’s also not my view that the whistleblower should be able to answer questions in an anonymous way, and I think the whistleblower should come to the Senate Intelligence Committee.” 

Blunt and other Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee want the whistleblower to meet with the panel as part of its probe into the process followed with regards to the complaint. The whistleblower’s attorneys have offered for the whistleblower to answer questions in writing and under oath. 

The pushback against Paul comes after days of Trump, his close allies on Capitol Hill and conservative media pundits calling for the whistleblower’s identity to be publicly revealed. They argue the whistleblower’s identity is vital information because it would give Trump the ability to confront his accuser and discover any potential political biases the whistleblower may harbor.

Democrats and left-leaning commentators have countered that not only is the whistleblower’s identity legally protected, but also that it is unnecessary to reveal it because the information provided in the initial complaint has been corroborated several times over by witnesses in the impeachment inquiry.

Paul on Monday referenced unconfirmed reports in conservative media that the whistleblower worked for former Vice President Joe Biden.

“We also now know the name of the whistleblower. The whistleblower needs to come forward as a material witness because he worked for Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden leads Trump by 6 points in national poll The Memo: Political world grapples with long coronavirus shutdown The Hill's Campaign Report: North Carolina emerges as key battleground for Senate control MORE at the same time Hunter Biden was getting money from corrupt oligarchs,” Paul said at the rally after Trump invited him onstage.

“I say tonight to the media: Do your job and print his name,” Paul told the crowd to loud cheers.

Trump over the weekend had also urged reporters to identify the whistleblower, saying they would "be doing the public a service” if they disclosed the individual’s identity. 

"They know who it is. You know who it is. You just don't want to report it. CNN knows who it is, but you don't want to report it," Trump said. "You know, you’d be doing the public a service if you did."

Pressed on Tuesday if Trump thought it was legal to identify whistleblowers, Eric Ueland, the White House’s legislative director, sidestepped. 

“Part of ensuring that all facts are on the table, everything appropriate that needs to be known about all parties should be out on the table for public evaluation,” Ueland told reporters. 

In a statement to The Hill, Mark Zaid, one of the whistleblower’s attorneys, suggested Paul was "betray[ing] the interests of the Constitution and the American people" by calling for the whistleblower to be unmasked.

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“A member of Congress who calls for the identity of any lawful whistleblower to be publicly revealed against their wishes disgraces the office they hold and betrays the interests of the Constitution and the American people,” Zaid said.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerMcConnell launches ad touting role in passing coronavirus relief Joe Biden can't lead the charge from his home in Delaware Texas man arrested for allegedly threatening Democrats over coronavirus bill MORE (D-N.Y.) lashed out at Paul from the Senate floor, saying he was “appalled” by attempts to unmask the whistleblower. 

“I cannot stress just how wrong this is. We have federal whistleblower laws designed to protect the identity and safety of patriotic Americans who come forward to stand up for the Constitution,” Schumer said during a speech on the Senate floor.

Not every Republican broke with Paul, whose libertarian-leaning views frequently put him at odds with his Senate GOP colleagues. 

“I don’t think it’s your job to do it,” Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTrump reviews Pelosi on morning TV: 'She wasn't bad' Encryption helps America work safely – and that goes for Congress, too Graham: Pelosi comment on Trump is 'most shameful, disgusting statement by any politician in modern history' MORE (R-S.C.) told reporters. “[But] I think we should allow the president to know who the accuser is. And I think the whistleblower statute is being terribly abused here.” 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Health Care: White House projects grim death toll from coronavirus | Trump warns of 'painful' weeks ahead | US surpasses China in official virus deaths | CDC says 25 percent of cases never show symptoms 14 things to know for today about coronavirus Trump says he wouldn't have acted differently on coronavirus without impeachment MORE (R-Ky.) repeatedly declined to weigh in during a weekly press conference despite multiple questions on whether whistleblowers should be protected. 

“What I'm going to do is wait until we get the case from the House — it looks like that is going to happen — and withhold judgment on the daily revelations, charges, witnesses, all the rest that you all of course, need to report on as it — as it comes out. That's really all I have to say about that at this point,” he said.

Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioPompeo: Countries must 'step up,' provide 'transparent' coronavirus information to save lives China did not count coronavirus positives if patient had no symptoms: report Trump seeks to sell public on his coronavirus response MORE (R-Fla.) said they needed to follow the law but also “at some point people are also allowed to confront their accuser … so it’s a delicate situation.”

Paul, meanwhile, defended his position repeatedly on Tuesday, arguing that the whistleblower should be a “material witness” into any investigation into the Biden or his son Hunter Biden. 

“Did he bring up the conflict of interest? Was there a discussion of this? What was his involvement with the relationship between Joe Biden and the prosecutor? There are a lot of questions the whistleblower has to answer,” Paul continued.

He added during a separate gaggle with reporters there wasn’t a law preventing the media from naming the whistleblower. Pressed how he knows press reports are accurate, he told a reporter to “do some investigative reporting.” 

“Go knock on the guy's house,” Paul said. Turning to the gaggle of reporters following him, he added: “Raise your hand if you’ve knocked on the guy's house and asked him if he’s the whistleblower. ... If you want to do your job go report it and go ask him if he's the whistleblower."