Former FBI agent Asha Rangappa explained that the recent revelations that President Donald Trump made a promise to a foreign leader that made an intelligence official uncomfortable enough to declare themselves a whistleblower.
Rangappa explained that the President has a fairly wide latitude to conduct foreign affairs as he sees fit. But “when it comes to the ‘outside world,’ the President represents the sovereign: He is basically the voice of the United States and can negotiate with world leaders on its behalf.”
She explained the separation of powers argument that the President should be able to discuss things confidentially when it has to do with diplomatic communications. World leaders should feel secure that their conversations with Trump are private, other than his Twitter feed.
“HAVING SAID THAT,” Rangappa tweeted in all capital letters. “There are limitations. First, as @jedshug has written (also in context of obstruction of justice), the President has a fiduciary obligation to act in the *best interests of the United States*. In other words, he cannot abuse his powers for personal gain — further, the ‘slice’ of his ‘exclusive’ Art. II powers is fairly narrow. Congress does have a say, for instance, whether we go to war in the absence of an emergency defensive action. It can also say that certain types of foreign policy actions are illegal.”
She then quoted former Barack Obama appointee Eric Columbus.
Key point: the Inspector General who is fighting the Acting DNI to transmit this info to Congress WAS APPOINTED BY TRUMP. If this alarms him, it’s bound to alarm us. https://t.co/a4nWhNtbbr https://t.co/aIlQiSxxAz
— Eric Columbus (@EricColumbus) September 19, 2019
“So, for instance, while President Reagan might have argued that his actions in Iran Contra were in the best interest of the U.S. (preventing [the] spread of Communism), they were nevertheless in violation of the Boland Amendment and still illegal,” she continued. “In fact, much of the extensive congressional oversight over intelligence functions stems from things like Iran Contra — you want to balance POTUS’ foreign affairs/nat sec powers with transparency, individual rights (e.g., warrantless wiretapping after 9/11), and accountability.”
The way that the law works is the whistleblower would approach the independent council or another separate entity to “vet” the complaint and if it is urgent escalate it.
“The IG has to look at the complaint, determine that it is credible and that it is urgent: That it is ‘[a] serious or flagrant problem, abuse, violation of law or Executive order, or deficiency relating to to…an intelligence activity involving classified information,'” Rangappa quoted.
Under the definition of “urgent,” the complaint can’t be a policy disagreement. The IG, in this case, came to Congress with the claim.
“So, we’re basically left with the fact that a Trump appointee, found this complaint to be ‘urgent,’ meaning that it is not merely a policy dispute, beyond the broad Art. II foreign affairs authority POTUS enjoys, and likely illegal — and which Congress must look at,” she continued.
She closed by quoting Columbus’ key point: “the Inspector General who is fighting the Acting DNI to transmit this info to Congress WAS APPOINTED BY TRUMP. If this alarms him, it’s bound to alarm us.”