Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, wrongly identified the whistleblower who triggered the impeachment probe into President Donald Trump’s Ukraine dealings in a tweet on Thursday.
This article first appeared on Salon.
“Adam Schiff said, ‘I do not know the identity of the whistleblower,’” King tweeted on Thursday after Schiff’s remarks during Wednesday’s impeachment hearing. “@RepAdamSchiff here are four strong clues.”
King included four photos of a young man standing with prominent Democrats like former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. The tweet was then shared by Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz.
Steve King has deleted his tweet falsely accusing the son of George Soros of being the whistleblower… https://t.co/hy6u1GVo5a— Aidan McLaughlin (@Aidan McLaughlin)1573757656.0
There was just one problem: the man in the photos was no whistleblower. It was Alex Soros, the son of billionaire Democratic donor George Soros, who has been the subject of numerous baseless Trumpworld conspiracy theories. King himself has repeatedly pushed these conspiracy theories.
Soros’ Open Society Foundations issued a statement to The Daily Beast slamming King for posting photos of Alex Soros and hitting out at his “long-established history of white nationalism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.”
“Rep. King is circulating false information,” the statement said. “The person in the picture is Alex Soros, deputy chairman of the Open Society Foundations. He is not the whistleblower, and any attempt to identify the whistleblower is a violation of protections put in place to help people in government root out waste, fraud and abuse.”
The statement added that given that his “behavior is so abhorrent House Republican leaders stripped him of his committee assignments — our expectations of his suddenly showing any principles are low.”
It was not the first time that Trump allies “outed” the wrong individual as the whistleblower.
Actor Dean Cain and other Trump fans last week spread the photo of a former Obama White House staffer to claim that he was the whistleblower, leading to death threats, The Daily Beast reported. But the staffer could not be the whistleblower, because he left the White House years before the complaint.
After deleting the tweet suggesting that Alex Soros was the whistleblower, King tweeted a new photo of a CIA analyst purported to be the whistleblower in an unconfirmed RealClearInvestigations report, which has been spread by Republicans.
The report was shared by numerous conservatives on Twitter, including Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. Paul later called for the media to out the whistleblower during a rally speech alongside Trump.
Donald Trump Jr. tweeted the name of the purported whistleblower mentioned in the report, as did Trump ally Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla. Rep. Louie Gohmert named the CIA analyst mentioned in the report during an unrelated public House hearing last month. Republican lawmakers also reportedly tried to get the whistleblower’s name on the record in hopes that it would be made public. Multiple Fox News guests have said the name live on the air as well.
Trump has called for the whistleblower to be publicly identified and his allies have asserted that the report, which claims that the CIA analyst worked with former Vice President Joe Biden and then-CIA chief John Brennan in his capacity on the National Security Council, shows the whistleblower was biased and the impeachment inquiry was started for partisan means.
Trump and his allies have ignored the fact that multiple Trump administration officials found the complaint credible and referred it to the Justice Department to investigate. A second whistleblower later corroborated the first account. Multiple Trump administration officials have since corroborated nearly all of the whistleblower's complaint at closed-door depositions and in public hearings.
The whistleblower’s attorneys have warned that their client and his family have received death threats and issued a “cease and desist” letter to the White House.
"I am writing to respectfully request that you counsel your client on the legal and ethical peril in which he is placing himself should anyone be physically harmed as a result of his, or his surrogates', behavior,” attorney Andrew Bakaj wrote in a letter to White House counsel Pat Cipollone. “His calls to identify my client by name and his suggestion that he would support acts of violence against my client are, candidly, some of the most dangerous and reckless things a president of the United States can say.”
Despite warnings from his attorneys, Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., declared on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show Thursday that “the Senate must expose the whistleblower so the President can confront his accuser” and he “will not accept a trial in the Senate until I know who the whistleblower is.”