The Slatest

Trump Implies Whistleblowers Should Be Executed, Which May Conflict With Rules Protecting Whistleblowers

Maguire, wearing a suit and seated before a microphone in a hearing room, speaks while gesturing with his hands.
Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire on Capitol Hill on Thursday. Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire testified before the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday. He didn’t say much. While Democrats hassled him about his decision to consult the White House and Department of Justice about a whistleblower memo that implicated both the president and the attorney general, that issue isn’t likely going to end up being that relevant to impeachment proceedings because the memo was ultimately released and Maguire was in any case not one of the primary individuals responsible for keeping it hidden. Dems also tried fishing for Maguire’s sense of outrage regarding the allegations in the memo—that Donald Trump pressured Ukraine to smear a U.S. citizen in order to influence an election, and that the White House abuses the intelligence classification system to hide politically embarrassing material—but he didn’t take the bait.

One thing Maguire was firm on was reiterating that the still-anonymous whistleblower was judged to be “credible” by the intelligence community’s inspector general and that he deserved the full protection and security afforded to him by the law. “That individual works for me, therefore it is my job to make sure I support and defend that person. … I think the whistleblower did the right thing,” said Maguire.

Turns out his boss has a different view on the whistleblowing process! From the Los Angeles Times’ account of Trump’s remarks Thursday to a group of U.S. diplomatic staffers in New York (audio here):

“I want to know who’s the person, who’s the person who gave the whistleblower the information? Because that’s close to a spy,” he continued. “You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart? Right? The spies and treason, we used to handle it a little differently than we do now.”

Trump was alluding to the fact that the whistleblower’s memo included information he’d been given by other officials, other officials who would therefore potentially be what’s known as “witnesses.” Less than 48 hours since the Democrats announced they were formally opening impeachment investigations, then, Trump has obligingly given them another section to add to the eventual articles.