A law firm dedicated to protecting the rights and interests of whistleblowers is demanding a federal investigation into any leaks concerning the intelligence community whistleblower responsible for alerting the public to President Donald Trump‘s alleged attempts to extort Ukrainian officials via quid pro quo.
A letter authored by the namesake partners at Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto, LLP called on Attorney General William Barr to open a criminal investigation into any leaks of the whistleblower’s identity. Law&Crime obtained a copy of the letter on Wednesday afternoon.
“As attorneys representing whistleblowers for over 35-years we are extremely concerned about the nation-wide ‘chilling effect’ the disclosure of the identity of any intelligence community whistleblower will necessary cause,” the two-page letter begins. “Whistleblowers need to reassurance [sic] that the laws protecting them will be strictly enforced.”
Alarm bells went off in full fashion late Wednesday morning after Donald Trump Jr. tweeted out an article which may or may not have contained the name of the intelligence community whistleblower.
The White House later claimed they had no knowledge of–or intent to join–the younger Trump’s efforts to out the person who has plagued the Trump administration since early September.
The lawyers’ letter singles out the 45th president’s oldest son:
If the [whistleblower’s] name is revealed by any person, including Donald Trump, Jr., we hereby request that the persons engaging in this obstruction of justice be immediately arrested.
The attorneys point Barr’s attention to a federal obstruction of justice statute specifically keyed toward protecting whistleblowers.
This law, the letter notes, was “amended to explicitly prevent retaliation against whistleblowers” over 15 years ago.
A 2002 amendment to the federal retaliation statute notes:
Whoever knowingly, with the intent to retaliate, takes any action harmful to any person, including interference with the lawful employment or livelihood of any person, for providing to a law enforcement officer any truthful information relating to the commission or possible commission of any Federal offense, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both.
Codified at 18 U.S.C. § 1513(e), the law cited “makes clear that the intelligence community whistleblower who filed a valid concern with the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community would be fully protected under this law, and any person who retaliates against this whistleblower would be guilty of a serious felony under federal law,” the letter notes.
The two Kohns and Colapinto also delivered a glancing blow against President Trump himself: “This felony would also qualify as a ‘high crime or misdemeanor’ under the U.S. Constitution.”
“[T]he disclosure of this whistleblower’s identity to the public would constitute a criminal obstruction of justice,” the letter continues.
The attorneys reiterated the stakes for future would-be whistleblowers:
Given the high-profile nature of this case, and the “chilling effect” the disclosure of the whistleblower’s identity will have on other potential confidential informants to the United States, we request that you immediately open a criminal obstruction of justice investigation to root out who is responsible for any potential leak of the identity of the whistleblower.
“Other obstruction of justice laws which prevent intimidation of witnesses before congressional or administrative proceedings would also be applicable,” the letter continues in a footnote. “Additionally, any person with a security clearance who may be assisting in the disclosure of the whistleblower’s identity should also be subject to a security investigation because engaging in violation of several laws to reveal the identity of, or otherwise harass and intimidate a whistleblower or federal witness is illegal, and willfully engaging in such activity under these circumstances would pose a risk to national security.”
Trump Jr. responded on Thursday to suggestions that he broke the law by focusing on the whistleblower statute, which is separate from the statute cited above.
The hosts of The View are lying about the whistleblower statute.
Here's the statute that proves it's only a crime for the IG to release the name of the whistleblower. Totally legitimate & legal for members of the media & private citizens to name him.https://t.co/M2DefCURRF
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) November 7, 2019
Read the full letter addressed to Barr below:
Editor’s note: a response from Trump Jr. to criticism was added to this story post-publication.
[image via BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images]