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Lawyers For Whistleblower Float Legal Threats To Curtail Media Speculation About Client’s Identity

Chuck Ross on November 1, 2019

A lawyer for the CIA analyst who sparked the impeachment push against President Donald Trump says he is not limiting future legal options against news outlets or individuals who identify the whistleblower, should they be physically harmed.

“I am not going to be limiting any future options that may exist,” Andrew Bakaj told the Daily Caller News Foundation Friday.

Bakaj was responding to questions about a statement he and Mark Zaid, another lawyer for the whistleblower, issued Thursday night condemning speculation about the identity of their client, who filed a complaint on Aug. 12 with the intelligence community inspector general regarding Trump’s actions toward Ukraine.

“Any physical harm the individual and/or their family suffers as a result of disclosure means that the individuals and publications reporting such names will be personally liable for that harm,” said Bakaj and Zaid.

“Members of the media have a similar role in protecting those who lawfully expose suspected government wrongdoing,” they added.

Sean Davis, the co-founder of The Federalist, which has been critical of the whistleblower, called the lawyers’ statement “a disgusting attempt to intimidate and threaten journalists” into “giving up their First Amendment rights.”

Zaid acknowledged to the DCNF that there is “no law” prohibiting media outlets from identifying government whistleblowers. Instead, he said that protecting whistleblowers’ identity is a matter of “ethics and professionalism.”

Asked Friday how journalists could be held liable for publishing the name of a whistleblower, Bakaj declined to provide any additional comment, except to say that he is not limiting future legal options.

The lawyers were hitting back at rampant speculation about the identity of the whistleblower. Zaid responded Thursday to a tweet from GOP Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who circulated a story from RealClearInvestigations that identified an intelligence community analyst rumored to be the whistleblower.

Zaid, who has represented the Daily Caller in past litigation, asserted on Twitter that Paul was engaged in a “partisan effort to senselessly expose our client & intimidate future whistleblower.” 

Zaid also said that the whistleblower’s identity is “meaningless at this point,” because congressional witnesses have corroborated many of the allegations in his complaint.

House Democrats have interviewed multiple White House and State Department officials regarding Trump and administration officials’ interactions with Ukrainian officials. The whistleblower alleged that Trump offered a quid pro quo to Ukraine’s president in exchange for opening investigations into whether Joe Biden pressured Ukrainian leaders to shut down an investigation of Burisma Holdings, a company that had the former vice president’s son Hunter Biden as a board member.

Some Republicans believe the whistleblower’s identity should be made public in order to explore whether he had any political motivations against Trump. The whistleblower is reportedly a registered Democrat and worked in a professional capacity with Joe Biden.

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