President Donald Trump was incorrect to claim the rules governing intelligence community whistleblower complaint submissions were changed just before the Ukraine phone call complaint which led to the current series of scandals engulfing his presidency.
As Law&Crime previously reported, Trump tweeted the following all caps endorsement–much to the consternation of legal experts–of a false talking point about such procedures last week: “Who changed the long standing whistleblower rules just before submittal of the fake whistleblower report? Drain the swamp.”
On Monday, the Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG) directly rebuked the 45th president’s false conspiracy theory.
“The Disclosure of Urgent Concern form the Complainant submitted on August 12, 2019 is the same form the ICIG has had in place since May 24, 2018,” a press release sent out late Monday notes.
In a passage that could be read as insult to injury, the four-page statement also clarifies that the governing rules “went into effect before Inspector General [Michael] Atkinson entered on duty as the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community on May 29, 2018.”
In other words: the current rules have been the rules used by the ICIG for such complaints since before Trump’s handpicked appointee began leading the agency–and those rules have not changed since.
The press release also attempts to dispel adjacent misinformation that has been spread about the ICIG’s official procedures regarding the whistleblower’s knowledge of the Ukraine phone call:
Although the form requests information about whether the Complainant possesses first-hand knowledge about the matter about which he or she is lodging the complaint, there is no such requirement set forth in the statute. In fact, by law the Complainant – or any individual in the Intelligence Community who wants to report information with respect to an urgent concern to the congressional intelligence committees – need not possess first-hand information in order to file a complaint or information with respect to an urgent concern.
The two-pronged conspiracy theory regarding ICIG rules was initially pushed by right-wing commentator Sean Davis in The Federalist–a conservative website funded by a network of unknown donors. Trump and other aspects of the conservative movement quickly rallied around the false information. Monday’s corrective by Trump’s own ICIG pick is a notable development.
Davis, however, claimed he was vindicated by Monday’s report because of the way the ICIG’s statement notes how “certain language” in the forms handed out to whistleblowers “could be read – incorrectly – as suggesting that whistleblowers must possess first-hand information in order to file an urgent concern complaint with the congressional intelligence committees.”
Davis also claimed the “ICIG admits it changed the form in August without notice” but the statement does not actually say this.
“In summary,” the report concludes in reference to the misinformation being shared by the president and his allies, “the whistleblower submitted the appropriate Disclosure of Urgent Concern form that was in effect as of August 12, 2019, and had been used by the ICIG since May 24, 2018.”
[image via MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images]