Donald Trump Fires Inspector General Who Brought Ukraine Phone Call Whistleblower Complaint To Congress

from the just-more-retaliation-targeting-the-proper-channels dept

No one really needs to wait until Friday afternoon to bury bad news. Not these days when bad news is all we seem to have, occasionally mixed with even worse news. But the White House remains the White House, so the time-honored process of dumping stuff you want to stay out of the headlines right before everyone punches out for the weekend remains in place.

The government as a whole claims it wants whistleblowers to report wrongdoing through the proper channels. It then routinely follows this up by ensuring the proper channels remain the best way to see good deeds punished.

The whistleblower that reported President Trump’s inappropriate conversation with Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky saw their report buried by the White House’s Office of Legal Counsel. So much for the proper channels. President Trump himself asked for the whistleblower to be outed, undermining the protections the federal government has established to ensure wrongdoing is reported.

The only party receptive to the whistleblower’s complaints has now been fired by President Trump, closing the loop on the White House’s retaliatory actions.

President Donald Trump on Friday fired Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, who had told Congress about the whistleblower complaint that led to Trump’s impeachment, the President told Congress in a letter obtained by CNN.

So, there’s another spot open in the administration — one that will probably be filled by an underqualified suck-up, rather than someone who can actually do the job. Trump’s faith in appointees often appears to be directly related to how good they make him look, rather than how well they do their jobs.

“As is the case with regard to other positions where I, as President, have the power of appointment … it is vital that I have the fullest confidence in the appointees serving as inspectors general,” Trump wrote. “That is no longer the case with regard to this Inspector General.”

Atkinson’s response letter is worth reading. It makes it clear his firing was politically motivated and had nothing to do with his ability to carry out his duties.

It is hard not to think that the President’s loss of confidence in me derives from my having faithfully discharged my legal obligations as an independent and impartial Inspector General, and from my commitment to continue to do so.

More of the same from this administration, which isn’t all that different from the actions of the administrations that preceded Trump’s. Whistleblowers get punished. Those aiding whistleblowers in their efforts by following the law are also retaliated against with alarming frequency.

This is what whistleblower laws are supposed to deter. But they’re ultimately toothless, especially when it comes to presidential appointees who can be hired and fired at will. Since the protections only go so far, whistleblowers are likely to be deterred by appointees inhabiting the “proper channels,” who may selectively bury reports to ensure their own employment continues. Those that do pass on information that will displease the administration put their own necks on the line, and that’s the sort of ideal that rarely has a 100% participation rate in Washington, DC.

It would be nice if these protections — and the rules against retaliation — were respected across the board. But they’ll never be. They’ll only be used when they’re politically expedient.

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Comments on “Donald Trump Fires Inspector General Who Brought Ukraine Phone Call Whistleblower Complaint To Congress”

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63 Comments
This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

'Well if you don't want to to be told in private, public it is.'

While he(and those that pull similar stunts) may think he’s sending a message not to make him look bad, what he’s really done is make clear that the ‘official channels’ are nothing more than a trap, and if you find something damning you want the public to know about it’s much better to release it directly to the public anonymously, something I’m sure the administration will have no problems with since they clearly don’t want the official channels used.

fairuse (profile) says:

Re: 'Well if you don't want to to be told in private, public it

Didn’t Nixon have this problem. Difference is Nixon is/was smarter. Don’t get me started about LBJ.

All presidents have crazy egos, its part of what gets them the office. We have come full circle – The Astrology and New Age advisor back in the day, now there is TV Dr FirstName giving advice on pandemic. Payback is a bitch. All we are missing is an actor/talking head from "The View.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 'Well if you don't want to to be told in private, public it

^^^ This.

All they’re doing is teeing up the next Snowden. And with the baggage this administration seems to constantly carry, trump’s going to be one pissed off orange tinted fuck if/when this person decides it’s time.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 'Well if you don't want to to be told in private, public it

It is literally braimwashing behavior, DARVO. If it is brought through private channels it is to make him look bad and he is the real victim. If it is released to the public it is a scheme to make him look bad.

The worst part is he isn’t even contextually original – previously they used "national security" and "it’s classified" for the same purpose.

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Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Endorsing public channels

This is ultimately what is best for the public. His Excellency is compelled to speak his inside voice and do things that reveal the biases of a corrupt system. If he weren’t such a black-hat, he’d be a great white-hat for bureaucracy.

We already know that proper channels are a means to funnel dissent into soundproof boxes to be forever silenced. This only confirms this notion.

Complaints about corruption or moral hazards or incompetence should always be public. They should always be a giant embarrassment to the government, a blowback that leads to conflagration that ends in messy lawsuits and and huge fines and waves of appointees getting sacked meanwhile a season of gross political cartoons parading all the lunacy and entertaining our periodical readers.

That way, I hypothesize, our departments will think twice and thrice before letting stupidity, malice or greed prevail. Heck, if every published concern ends in a cascade disaster we might get literal knives in literal backs.

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David says:

Overgeneralization:

It would be nice if these protections — and the rules against retaliation — were respected across the board. But they’ll never be. They’ll only be used when they’re politically expedient.

I haven’t heard of Bill Clinton demolishing the channels that surfaced his actions leading to his impeachment.

Of course, you are correct in that it would not have been politically expedient for Clinton to behave like an unapologetic and vindictive crook getting rid of constitutional oversight.

It is politically expedient for Trump since not enough of the voting populace are bothered by him behaving like an unapologetic and vindictive crook getting rid of constitutional oversight.

In fact, they love him for draining the swamp and dealing one to Big State. Takes balls.

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Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Because as stated in the fucking article, the administration did it on a Friday night to hide it and bury it in the next week’s news cycle. It seemed important for us to remind people that this happened this week so it’s not forgotten.

On top of that, we’ve always said that we don’t write about the news so quickly because we want to have the time to research and investigate things and we publish when we’re ready to do so.

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20180810/17491840412/defense-slow-news.shtml

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Because as stated in the fucking article, the administration did it on a Friday night to hide it and bury it in the next week’s news cycle.

It’s ridiculous that this still works so well. In a world where thousands of news outlets want to report the story first, how have so few taken advantage of those two days with no real competition? We know people are paying attention on weekends; entire Twitter scandals have erupted and ended in that time.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re:

If telling the truth about your boss can get you fired, you’re being fired not for telling the truth, but because the boss didn’t want you telling the truth to anybody. That should tell you a lot about the ethics of your boss — and your own ethics, if you choose to play along, and especially if playing along puts lives (including yours) at risk of injury or death.

Paul B says:

Re: Re: Re:

In accounting we actually were given a 3rd option. In the event that you do not wish to be a whistleblower, due to the harm it may cause or because of your own personal reasons. Just quit.

This feels like what the commander of the ship in Guam did to save his troops, anyone who knows the history of the 1918 flu would have known ships are death traps.

The downside is that this covers stuff up because the only thing public is that person x just quit.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Stephen! This is your dead mother, channeled through a proud American! You, of all the bad children who have ever lived, are dishonoring your family name with such tripe more than anyone before you. New record! All your dead ancestors are sorely disappointed with you! Shame! And your dead cat, too she’s very sad. Tonight your dreams will punish you, just like I want to, you know the way! It’s coming!

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: subserviant worker

Hey, if you say bad things about the boss who can make decisions to hire and fire, then you had better say nice things that don’t get him in to trouble or you are fired.

Especially if your boss is insecure since this is his first real job, amirite?

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2

The president, like all politicians in office, is a public servant. He serves the people, not the other way around. While the people cannot directly recall the president like they can with some lower-level politicians/officeholders, the people can petition their representatives in Congress (imagine that, petitioning the government for a redress of grievances!) to impeach the president or at least act with stronger oversight of the executive branch.

We don’t work for the president, no matter how much that mob-boss-wannabe slumlord bastard thinks he is a king and we are his peons. The president is not a demigod; he is a crisis manager. And in this crisis, we could use a better president.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 "The president...is a public servant"

I think our peerless leader is doing his best to challenge that notion. So far he’s demonstrated that he can’t be penalized while he’s in office. I doubt he’s going to step down from office easily, even if somehow he loses an election.

I think this notion that our officials are representatives of the people is a convenient fiction to keep the people from revolting, and we’re about to discover how fictional it has become.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: subserviant worker

"Hey, if you say bad things about the boss who can make decisions to hire and fire, then you had better say nice things that don’t get him in to trouble or you are fired."

Is this where we remind you that the US president is, in fact, the one lying to his own boss all the time, and that firing the subordinate who revealed that to his boss wouldn’t fly well in the private sector either.

I don’t see your argument flying very well unless your default assumption is that the US operates on actual feudalism.

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Koby (profile) says:

Lies in the complaint

I’m disappointed in you. Normally, we don’t take unaccountable CIA agents for their word around here. But because a scumball CIA agent filed a complaint against Trump, suddenly you lionize the authorities?

The supposed CIA "whistleblower" lied repeatedly in his complaint. He said he took information directly from a state department official who personally listened into the phone call. He claimed that Trump demanded computer equipment located in Ukraine be given the the US during the phone call. And Trump also supposedly demanded that a specific Ukrainian prosecutor be retained to investigate. We now know from the transcript, and from State department testimony, that these were all lies. The so-called "whistleblower" CIA agent lied in order to get an investigation.

That brings us to Atkinson: he got easily duped. Had he done ANY actual investigation prior to bringing the information to the Democrats, such as LOOKING AT THE TRANSCRIPT, then he would have seen the lies, and been forced to conclude that this politically-motivated complaint was not credible. Instead, there is now a cover-up. The house is refusing to release the transcript of Atkinson’s closed door testimony. It is now very likely at this point that the IG lied to the committee as well.

Please — don’t carry the water for CIA agents. It’s just shameful. When authorities fabricate evidence, we want the authorities involved to be fired from their job.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Lies in the complaint

Your Cheeto-in-chief came right out and said the transcript is accurate — he said all of those things. There is no fake transcript. Your president is a child who doesn’t even understand why what he did was wrong. To this day he keeps injecting "like that conversation was perfect" into completely unrelated discussions. If you can’t see that what he did was wrong then you’re just as bad. You should have your right to vote revoked.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Lies in the complaint

such as LOOKING AT THE TRANSCRIPT

Did you look at it?

Did you miss this section on PAGE FUCKING ONE?

CAUTION: A Memorandum of a Telephone Conversation.· (TELCON) is not a verbatim transcript of a discussion. The text in this document records the notes and recollections of Situation Room Duty "Officers and-NSC policy staff assigned t_o listen.and memorialize the conversation in written form
as the conversation takes place.

Perhaps YOU should learn to READ before telling someone else to read something, no?

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Anonymous Coward says:

"No one really needs to wait until Friday afternoon to bury bad news. Not these days when bad news is all we seem to have, occasionally mixed with even worse news."

I felt that.

All this has really done is show that the "proper channels" are nothing but a sham and possibly a trap. If you try and bring up anything that would be politically inconvenient for the current administration it’s at BEST buried so as to never see the light of day/ignored entirely and at worst, you are punished for DARING to say what the president/government is doing isn’t 100% perfect and justified.

Bottom line is, If you plan to whistleblow it has to be outside the "proper channels" because nothing will be done otherwise and though even when you are doing it in the name of your country and the fact that it’s citizens have a right to know what their government is doing in their name you’ll still be punished with either trumped-up charges or the equivalent of being exiled.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

While I am in favor of whistleblowing, especially when it exposes stupid, illegal, immoral, or shameful conduct by agents of the government (which would include bureaucrats, politicians, and their minions (or even in private companies)) it appears that whistleblowing of any kind is functionally pointless.

One example is Edward Snowden who went to great lengths to protect himself while getting a lot of damning stuff to be available, even though he left it to others to determine what was released. While the public found out about a lot of smarmy things being done by government agents, not a whole lot of corrective action has taken place.

So what’s the point? I wish it were effective, but it doesn’t appear to be so.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I wouldn’t say that. People are now alot more conscious of their privacy and take it into their own hands rather than relaying on someone else.

Not that matters much considering the constitution was thrown into the paper shredder the day the PATRIOT Act was signed into law.

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

While it certainly didn’t do as much as it should have, it was still a hell of a lot more effective than staying silent, so it’s still a worthwhile endeavor I’d say, albeit a risky one given how many people in power really don’t like having light shined on their actions.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The Safest Way to Blow the Whistle

Apparently, the best way to be a whistleblower is:

  • join an organization you have no business being in
  • transmit classified information all over the world
  • develop autogynephilia or other sexual perversion
  • change your name
  • instead of being hanged like traitors of old, you’ll be lauded by the media
  • anyone referring to your old name is now guilty of one of the most heinous thoughtcrimes in Current Year, ‘deadnaming’

Congratulations, you’re now stunning and brave.

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restless94110 (profile) says:

When is a Whitleblower not One

So the fired guy changed the rules about whistleblowers solely in order to give this so called whistleblower credence? All whistsleblowers have always had to have first hand knowledge but for this one guy no? And whistleblower law does not protect the anonymity of the whistleblower ever. Until this one? All of the actual previous whistleblowers have stated that this is not a real whistleblower and that he doesn’t fit the previous definition of a whistleblower. And this rule change and ruling by this IG kicked off a completely bogus failed impeachment attempt that paralyzed government. And you support this guy? A guy by the way that serves strictly at the pleasure of the President. He could fire the guy if he had bad breath. But he stank far more than that. How is it you can’t see that and understand that? I thought you were for Snowden, Manning, Assange. Evidently not.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re:

All whistsleblowers have always had to have first hand knowledge but for this one guy no?

What’s funny is, everything the administration did to cover up what the whistleblower accused the administration of doing speaks less to the idea that the whistleblower didn’t have “first hand knowledge” and more to the idea that whatever knowledge they did have was correct.

whistleblower law does not protect the anonymity of the whistleblower ever. Until this one?

Whistleblower laws are intended to protect the anonymity of whistleblowers who go through normal channels so they won’t face retribution from their superiors. People like Ed Snowden and Chelsea Manning went outside those channels, which is why we know exactly who they are and what information they provided.

All of the actual previous whistleblowers have stated that this is not a real whistleblower and that he doesn’t fit the previous definition of a whistleblower.

They’re allowed to feel that way, even if they’re wrong.

a completely bogus failed impeachment attempt that paralyzed government

You say that like the government wasn’t paralyzed by partisan bullshit before the wholly constitutional (and at least partially rigged by Republicans) impeachment proceedings and trial.

And you support this guy?

I support him more than I support the man whose idea of “giving federal aid to the states during a pandemic” is “to hell with any state with a governor that didn’t kiss my ass”.

How is it you can’t see that and understand that?

Because the president has far more of a credibility problem than does the man he fired.

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Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: When is a Whitleblower not One

Nearly everything about your post is false.

So the fired guy changed the rules about whistleblowers solely in order to give this so called whistleblower credence?

He did not change any rules. He followed the rules.

All whistsleblowers have always had to have first hand knowledge but for this one guy no?

You shouldn’t believe the nonsense pushed out by the President’s supporters. That is not a rule for whistleblowers. And he did have the requisite knowledge, which proved accurate. If you have knowledge of someone in the government planning a criminal act, you report it. That’s just fundamental.

And whistleblower law does not protect the anonymity of the whistleblower ever. Until this one?

This is just blatantly false. Yes, whistleblower laws protect the anonymity of a whistleblower. You are reporting on fake news. I mean, it’s in the fucking law you dolt: "The Inspector General shall not, after receipt of a complaint or information from an employee, disclose the identity of the employee without the consent of the employee, unless the Inspector General determines such disclosure is unavoidable during the course of the investigation." https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/5a/compiledact-95-452/section-7

All of the actual previous whistleblowers have stated that this is not a real whistleblower and that he doesn’t fit the previous definition of a whistleblower.

This is the most laughable claim of all. Tons of whistleblowers came out in support of this whistleblower. Including the most famous whistleblower of the last century: https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/7x57kq/daniel-ellsberg-has-some-thoughts-on-trumps-whistleblower

And this rule change and ruling by this IG kicked off a completely bogus failed impeachment attempt that paralyzed government.

There was no rule change, the government was not paralyzed other than by idiotic partisan gridlock.

And you support this guy?

We support whistleblowing. And any intellectually honest person does. We do not support retaliation.

Apparently you support blatant coverups. What do you think that says about you?

I thought you were for Snowden, Manning, Assange. Evidently not.

No, apparently you don’t support them. Snowden was among those who decried how Trump has treated the whistleblower, which he also called a whistleblower: https://www.democracynow.org/2019/9/26/edward_snowden_on_writing_his_memoir

We support whistleblowers. You support coverups when your "team" is in power, you bootlicker.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: When is a Whitleblower not One

And this rule change and ruling by this IG kicked off a completely bogus failed impeachment attempt that paralyzed government.

Really? It didn’t seem to affect the president’s golf schedule, or his rally schedule.

Perhaps if he spent more time being president, rather than playing golf or pandering to simpletons, we wouldn’t have the highest number of corona virus deaths, biggest stock market drop in history, and highest unemployment numbers ever.

Are you still one of those dipshits that think we’re winning?

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David says:

Re: Re: When is a Whitleblower not One

Are you still one of those dipshits that think we’re winning?

It’s a virus, not a bacterium. You win once your cells have become too illiterate to transcribe its RNA. And nobody stands for illiteracy like Trump does.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: When is a Whitleblower not One

"And nobody stands for illiteracy like Trump does."

Then again Trump’s brand of illiteracy, imposed on a ribosome, would end up in the cell failing to pound out anything other than the DNA equivalent of "I’ve got the best words" which, i don’t mind telling you, would arguably be worse than simply churning out virus copies.

It’s not a cure if it kills more people than the disease does.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Not that it matters considering the people who will be in charge of doling out the bailout are the same people who stand to gain the most from no oversight.

Foxes guarding the henhouse. Even Trump said the same thing, that there will pretty much be no oversight and what little there is will be toothless all while means-testing the hell out of regular people as businesses and corporations literally loot the treasury while once again leaving Average Joe to pick up the tab.

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