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Here’s how the law governing whistleblowers applies to the Trump Ukraine complaint

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President of the United States Donald Trump speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

This week it was revealed that President Donald Trump did something so concerning that an intelligence staffer felt the need to report the incident and file for whistleblower protections.

Trump asked Ukraine to look into scandals about former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter. For nearly a year, Trump’s former attorney Rudy Giuliani was admittedly working to persuade officials in Ukraine to find “dirt” on the Bidens that they could use in the election. While the accusations against the younger Biden have been disproven, it’s suspected, but not confirmed, that this was the incident detailed in the complaint.

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Pundits have tried to get the whistleblower to release the information since the White House is refusing to abide by Congressional subpoenas or any other form of oversight, transparency or accountability. A former FBI agent went so far as to encourage the whistleblower to report the crime to the FBI.

The Washington Post explained the laws that govern such complaints and those willing to step forward to file them.

Intelligence whistleblowers have additional barriers to climb over and significant ramifications from their complaints. They can not only be fired but the whistleblower could be prosecuted, especially if the president is a thin-skinned leader known for dictating that the Department of Justice work for his interest.

“The Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act, passed by Congress in 1998 and incorporated at the creation of the Office of the Intelligence Community Inspector General in 2010, fashioned a special set of procedures for employees to report misconduct, while guaranteeing classified information remains classified,” The Post explained. “Under the statute, an intelligence whistleblower is protected from retaliation so long as he or she follows the protocol when filing a complaint.”

In this case, the intelligence staffer would submit a complaint to the inspector general of the intelligence community. The report must then be reviewed within 14 days and the IG concludes whether it should be considered “urgent.” That’s defined as “relating to” the “administration or operation of an intelligence activity within the authority of the Director of National Intelligence involving classified information,” The Post cited from the law.

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If the IG finds the complaint valid it is then sent to the director of national intelligence, who has seven days to send the complaint to Congress. Trump doesn’t currently have a DNI who was approved by Congress. He’s relying on an “acting” DNI to avoid having confirmation hearings for his appointees. Many of Trump’s appointees have been disgraced when facts about them came to light after their appointment.

The DNI would then decide if the allegation is credible or not and if the whistleblower can contact Congress securely. In this case, the whistleblower followed the guidelines and the acting inspector general found the complaint “urgent and credible.” He then sent it to the acting DNI, Joseph Maguire, who is now in breach of the law for refusing to forward it to Congress. He is also refusing to comply with a subpoena.

The intelligence general counsel then superseded the inspector general’s authority and claimed the complaint wasn’t an “urgent concern.”

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The law did not require the DNI to forward it to Congress because it involved “conduct by someone outside the Intelligence Community and did not relate to any ‘intelligence activity within the responsibility and authority of the DNI,’” he claimed in his letter.

The counsel also tried to claim that the whistleblower complaint contained “confidential and potentially privileged communications.” That way, Trump controls the classified information provided by the whistleblower, preventing it from ever becoming public.

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“The DNI cannot countermand the Inspector General’s determination,” said national security lawyer Jesselyn Radack, according to The Post.

It’s merely another in the line of Trump appointees violating the law or refusing to follow it.

Read the full report by The Washington Post.

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