Former federal and state prosecutor Elie Honig explained Sunday that there are criminal statutes that could be used to prosecute those outing the whistleblower.
This week, RealClearInvestigations revealed the name of someone they believed to be the whistleblower. President Donald Trump's son, Donald Trump Jr., then proceeded to tweet out the name of the whistleblower to his 4 million followers.
"There are two categories of law potentially in play here," Honig began while speaking on CNN. "First, civil and administrative penalties. Civil law says you can’t take personnel action to punish somebody who’s come forward with information. It doesn’t use the phrase, whistleblower. That means you can’t demote somebody or fire somebody, if they’ve come forward with information. The penalties here are primarily administrative and financial."
Where the real "teeth" are in the law, however, comes from criminal statutes, he explained.
"I believe there are criminal statutes here, [like] witness tampering," Honig continued. "It’s a federal crime to try to intimidate a witness, to try to get them to influence or delay or prevent their testimony. Also, it’s a crime to retaliate against a witness. To take harmful action against somebody to pay them back for coming forward with information. Now, will our Justice Department take action here? I don’t know. Bill Barr has shown little inclination in doing it, but to me, this can’t be about politics. Protecting witnesses is core to what we do in our justice system."
While Attorney General Bill Barr isn't likely to prosecute any criminal witness tampering, particularly at the hands of the president's namesake, the statute of limitations for witness tampering is five years, with a few exceptions. If Trump loses the election in 2020, the incoming Democratic president could choose to prosecute those who revealed the whistleblower and who tried to intimidate him/her.
Watch Honig's comments below: