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As far as I can tell, the anonymous whistleblower report filed by an intelligence officer about President Trump’s interactions with the leader of Ukraine is what got the whole Trump impeachment investigation started.

At this point, however, others have openly testified about the the same things described in the report. Still, the question of the whistleblower's identity seems to be attracting a lot of attention. President Trump claims to knows who the whistleblower was and Nancy Pelosi has said that she'll: "make sure [Trump] does not intimidate the whistleblower."

At this point though, why is it so important who the whistleblower is? Even if they never spoke to them again, haven't other witnesses said the exact same things?

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    I'm pretty sure this is a duplicate of a similar question asked a week or two ago, but I cannot find the other one. In the one I'm thinking of, it was fairly thoroughly explained in answers that knowing who the whistleblower is at this point is not important and in fact is completely irrelevant for reasons similar to those the OP here has presented. Does anyone else remember that recent question? – Aaron Nov 20 at 22:39
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    @Aaron I thought the same (great names think alike?) and looked in my history... it turns out that was this same question but with a different title (was "Right now, who cares about the whistleblower?") – Aaron F Nov 21 at 11:28
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In terms of what new information of substance can the whistle-blower bring to the fore that is not already confirmed or refuted by more closely engaged sources, there is no purpose and nothing for the whistle-blower to offer. Since the allegations have been corroborated, and more, it seems, the purpose of the whistle-blower is more key for the defense of Trump - as a distraction from the facts and evidence in the case.

Consider, that when the report was initially made, the defense you'd hear from the GOP and conservatives was that this person had nothing of value to offer, as their perspective was not "first hand." Now, the counter-argument was that the report and examination of the claims led to more direct corroboration, so bringing the issues to light was important, but the whistle-blower, himself/herself and what they had to say (already in the report), was less important than offering a map of where to look and who to talk to.

So, the same people, who previously, before any witnesses were heard, were discounting the value of anything this person had to say, now think it is very important to talk to them, even though they don't have anything more to offer than what was in the report, and certainly less than other sources who have spoken to the same issues.

But as a distraction, the defense is to hope to throw ancillary issues that have no probative value into the mix, and make a muddled mess of things.

Supposedly, it is important to find out if this person had a partisan agenda, if they hated Trump, if they ever lied about anything in their lives, if they had ever "leaked" information.

None of that matters.

If I hate a person, and see them shoot someone dead in the street, and I report it, maybe if my claim is the only piece of evidence, it might be looked at with skepticism. If my reporting it leads to the police talking to other witnesses who saw the events, pulling camera footage that objectively documents the events..... how does my own feelings about the person impact the veracity of the claims and facts? It does not.

This person followed the documented procedure for raising an issue, by the book. To eliminate bias and false claims, the process has a review by an independent, objective party - the Inspector General. If the Inspector General finds that the claims are "credible and urgent," THEN it is supposed to be forwarded. The IG did find this, so, again, whatever their motivations, whatever their goals, an independent party without the same agenda, bias and feelings assessed the claims to be credible.

Whether the person ever "leaked" information is irrelevant, because this was not a leak - the proper procedure was followed by the whistle-blower. Whether the person ever lied about anything is irrelevant, as these claims have been independently vetted and corroborated.

So, if you are searching for the truth about what happened, and are seeking useful information, the whistle-blower has nothing of value to offer to the process, at this point. Their valuable input started and ended with the filing of the report, and with the contents of the report.

If you want to create an imaginary conspiracy of some sort as a lifeline to those desperate to deny the facts in evidence, then the whistle-blower has value as an imaginary boogey-man.

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    To add - This scenario is similar to anonymous tip lines in common use with law enforcement. The value of these is extensively proven, and relies on the trust a caller has that his or her identity will be protected. The arrest - if the tip results in one - is made on evidence gathered via subsequent investigation, not on the weight of any evidence provided by the anonymous tipster, and it would be a very poor defense attorney indeed that sought the identity of the tipster as part of their defense. – cpcodes Nov 19 at 0:15
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    As an additional motivation, if the current whistle blower is outed and has their life messed up, it will discourage others from using the same system to report possible wrong-doing. – Patricia Shanahan Nov 19 at 0:32
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    This answer is incorrect and many points. There is controversy on how the whistleblower reported his concerns. The controversy is that it is possible that the whistleblower heard the call second hand and also reported it to Schiff and not the IG – Frank Cedeno Nov 19 at 18:10
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    @FrankCedeno The law has never required that firsthand knowledge be a prerequisite for submitting a whistleblower complaint to the IG (snopes.com/fact-check/whistleblowers-firsthand-knowledge). Also, the whistleblower did, in fact, report the issue to the IG (dni.gov/files/ICIG/Documents/News/ICIG%20News/2019/…). – probably_someone Nov 19 at 18:43
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    Comments deleted. This question and its answers are not about Joe Biden. Please keep comments relevant to improving the content on this website. Don't use them for side-discussions. – Philipp Nov 21 at 8:51
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There are at least 3 motives to get the whistleblower to testify:

  1. Fact finding to figure out what actually happened.

  2. Retaliation to discourage and intimidate potential future whistleblowers, and also to discourage and intimidate witnesses.

  3. Distraction not only to literally distract from the core question of the impeachment, but also as a vital component of a wider Chewbacca defense.

As of now, the whistleblower's testimony is no longer relevant for 1., because everything they revealed has already been covered by first hand witness testimony, and physical evidence.

To answer the question: 2. and 3. are still very relevant, and therefore the whistleblower is still very relevant.

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President Trump does, he tweeted on Sunday November 17th:

Where is the Fake Whistleblower?

PoloHoleSet is right in their answer by saying that there's no evidence that having the whistleblower testify will provide additional insights. What is in the whistleblower report can either be supported by other evidence or it cannot.

Forcing the whistleblower to come forward is said to be a bad idea because it may discourage future whistleblowers from reporting wrongdoing in government. As stated by the chairmen of various House committees (quote from a larger statement, emphasis mine):

“The President’s comments today constitute reprehensible witness intimidation and an attempt to obstruct Congress’ impeachment inquiry. We condemn the President’s attacks, and we invite our Republican counterparts to do the same because Congress must do all it can to protect this whistleblower, and all whistleblowers. Threats of violence from the leader of our country have a chilling effect on the entire whistleblower process, with grave consequences for our democracy and national security.

I should note that the quote above was made on September 26 and is not a reply to the newer tweet referenced at the start of my answer.

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    @FrankCedeno there is no transcript, at least not publicly, there is a memorandum of the call. Which statements in the whistleblower's report are you disputing? – JJ for Transparency and Monica Nov 19 at 18:17
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    @FrankCedeno The law has never required that firsthand knowledge be a prerequisite for submitting a whistleblower complaint to the IG (snopes.com/fact-check/whistleblowers-firsthand-knowledge). Also, what "various falsehoods"? – probably_someone Nov 19 at 18:44
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    Where's this notion coming from that whistleblowers must be angelic beings free of any human flaws and immune to any criticism? – barbecue Nov 19 at 21:43
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    @FrankCedeno: The WB is an intel officer (CIA, NSA, DIA, etc.) - that much is obvious from the fact that they filed a report with the ICIG before taking the whistleblower route (a journalist would not be bound by that process). And again, anything the Bidens did or did not do is irrelevant - holding aid hostage in exchange for a public announcement of an investigation into the Bidens for Trump's political benefit is an abuse of the office, and thus impeachable. Hunter Biden could be corrupt as hell, and the ask would still be impeachable. – John Bode Nov 20 at 20:39
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    @Frank Cedeno "The whole premise that presidents do not pressure other presidents is false" - there is no such premise. The premise is that such pressure for personal gain is wrong. Do you agree that such pressure for personal gain is wrong? – Lag Nov 20 at 22:00
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At this point though, why is it so important who the whistleblower is?

It is "important" if your intention is to harass and intimidate the whistle-blower as well as other potential whistle-blowers. Like the threats made by Representative Matt Gaez to Cohen prior to Cohen's testimony before Congress. Or Roger Stone referring to a pivot Godfather 2 scene when intimidating witnesses which was referenced on page 19 of his indictment.

It is "important" when your intention is to portray the whistle-blower as a partisan hack. For example, one partisan attack on Lt. Col. Vindman is to try to portray him as un-American or "a Democrat" in order to undermine his testimony.

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    one partisan attack [... is ...] to portray him as [...] "a Democrat". It's noteworthy that this attack lowers the credibility of the witness among those who support the president, while simultaneously boosting the credibility of the witness among those who oppose the president, making it an extremely divisive move. – Peter - Unban Robert Harvey Nov 21 at 10:38
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'Fruit of the poisonous tree' is a common defense in criminal court when the defense is having difficulty refuting the prosecutor's arguments on their merits. Basically, if you can go back and prove that the original source is in some way faulty or illegal, then everything that happened because of that one source can be ruled inadmissible. Republicans are hoping that this would serve to discredit the entire investigation and thus muddy the waters enough that voters see both parties as corrupt and biased and thus reject the impeachment as a political ploy. Unfortunately for them, an impeachment is not a criminal trial and thus many criminal trial rules do not apply.

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    Rather, Republicans are hoping voters will see Democrats as corrupt. (And vice versa) – WGroleau Nov 19 at 19:07
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    That and fruit of the poisonous tree wouldn't actually apply here, because even if this were a criminal trial, the other witnesses are providing evidence that's independent of the whistleblower, versus evidence relying on the whistleblower or their direct actions. That they were found/pursued due to the whistleblower initially raising an alarm is entirely, 100% irrelevant to their evidentiary status and bearing, and has nothing to do with how fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine actually works even in a criminal trial. – taswyn Nov 19 at 23:34
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    @taswyn indeed. A related assertion has been that the president is being denied the right to confront the witness. In criminal cases, however, that right does not imply that anonymous informants who do not actually testify are of no value. If their reports can be corroborated by additional evidence that is actually admissible, then that admissible evidence can be presented at trial. – phoog Nov 20 at 16:24
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    Also unfortunately for them, the whistleblower appears to be someone of high integrity, a career public servant, a lifelong republican voter, and someone who acted purely for the love of their country. – Geoff Griswald Dec 2 at 16:54
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Trump cares, and he thinks that he can make the public care too. He believes that if he knows who the whistle blower is, he can jump on Twitter and start systematically discrediting them and doing his usual "Trump thing".

You're right though, at this point it doesn't really matter. They've had the same testimony from a half-dozen witnesses, and there's official transcripts of the calls that the whistle blower raised their concerns about.

At this point it's more about protecting them as a person than protecting them from being attacked and discredited by Trump. He has a lot of supporters, and this person's life could be made hell by them, were they to be identified.

  • Regarding your first sentence, do you have specific evidence to support that? I've seen various tweets from the president relating to the whistleblower, but I don't think it's been this explicit. Is this based on specific evidence or is it an educated guess? – JJ for Transparency and Monica Nov 19 at 18:03
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    I have no hard evidence to show that Trump will definitely jump on twitter and start bashing the Whistle blower the moment he finds out who they are, but I would stake my entire life on it that he does. – Geoff Griswald Nov 19 at 18:08
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    Maybe cite the attacks he's already made on the whistleblower or the attempts by other Republicans to smear them based on guesses as to their identity – divibisan Nov 19 at 18:54
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    @AxiomaticNexus The whistleblower's attorney "raised worries about their client’s safety". Trump threatened the whistleblower, and suggested his attorney should be sued for treason. – tim Nov 19 at 21:18
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    @AxiomaticNexus How do you know that the name that has been bandied around on right-wing news sites is actually the correct name of the whistleblower? Consider the case of Richard Jewell: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Jewell – probably_someone Nov 20 at 15:45
6

If it were a criminal trial, the whistleblower’s (WB) report, being hearsay, would not be admissible, and anyone attempting to do so would be reprimanded. However, as in an answer, the investigators would not be reprimanded for looking for other evidence.

But this is not a criminal trial, it is the investigation, so different rules apply. And those rules aren’t clearly established by any statute. That said, the chatter about WB makes no sense for fact-finding at this point. (It makes a lot of sense for partisan mud-slinging from both sides.)

  • Aren't the rules of the investigation set by the House? I think the rules references in my answer here are those rules, or at least a start for the complete set of rules when the investigation proceeds. – JJ for Transparency and Monica Nov 19 at 18:07
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    Yes, but they made them up for this, with little precedent. That’s why I made sure to use the word “statute.” (If they are in CFR, I don’t know about it, but I’d love to be educated with a citation.) – WGroleau Nov 19 at 18:11
  • "It's not a criminal trial": this is true, and furthermore (as implied by "it is the investigation") it's not even an impeachment trial. That point is being overlooked by many. The house makes its own rules, so there is no need for the rules to be enacted by statute and no chance that the rules would be found in the CFR (which are regulations issued by the executive branch pursuant to authority created by statute). – phoog Nov 20 at 16:28
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    I'd note that even in a criminal trial, it'd be entirely acceptable and normal for the police to have begun an investigation based on hearsay. That hearsay isn't evidence they can use in court, but they can certainly use it to direct the search for evidence that can be. – ceejayoz Nov 21 at 19:26
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    There are two problems with this. Hearsay can be admissible in some cases, and it's irrelevant entirely unless someone is actually planning to use the report as evidence, which would be silly since we have the transcripts from the Whitehouse and firsthand testimony. Why use the whistleblower's report about the contents of the call when we have the contents of the call? – Reinstate Monica Nov 21 at 22:45
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I imagine the whistleblower cares about themselves a whole lot.

The United States places considerable protection on whistleblowers in both the government and private industries. Revealing or implying to have information about their identity is still a very sensitive subject - regardless of his credibility or lack thereof due to his identity.

It may have little impact on the impeachment hearings itself, but their identity is still very important in terms of both civil liberty, and of their own self-preservation.

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    Or conversely the whistleblower cares about their country and the laws that help protect it by allowing whistleblower to present their information knowing they will be protected. The IG, nominated by the President, determines the credibility of whisleblowers of this nature. Not members of congress. – Jontia Nov 19 at 22:33
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    "Revealing or implying to have information about their identity is still a very sensitive subject[...]" - let's be blunt, it's a threat. – Klaws Nov 21 at 14:57

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