By Miriam Raftery
Photo: President Trump and Congressman Adam Schiff, whom Trump accused of “treason” for chairing an impeachment inquiry
September 30, 2019 – Attorneys for the whistleblower whose complaint launched an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump have sent letters to the Acting Director of National Intelligence and to Chairs of the House and Senate intelligence committees requesting federal protection for their client. The letter cites overt threats made by the President calling for the death of whistleblowers and leakers. On Sept. 26, Trump stated during a meeting with United Nations leaders caught on tape by the Los Angeles Times:
“I want to know who’s the person that gave the Whistleblower, who’s the person that gave the Whistleblower the information, because that’s close to a spy. You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart? Right? With spies and treason, right? We used to handle them a little differently than we do now.”
The penalty for treason, under the Constitution, is death by execution.
The attorneys’ letter states that a $50,000 bounty has also been offered for information leading to the whistleblower’s identity, further imperiling safety of the whistleblower, who has indicated that he or she wants to testify before Congress.
Threatening a federal witness is a felony; witness tampering is punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison if a threat of violence is made.
Trump made repeated veiled threats again in a series of Tweet storms over the weekend, demanding to know the identity of the whistleblower. He then accused Rep. Adam Schiff, chair of the House Intelligence Committee leading an impeachment investigation, of treason, implying he should be executed, too, tweeting:
“I want Schiff questioned at the highest level for Fraud & Treason.....”
Trump’s lashing out against Schiff came after Schiff likened Trump’s actions toward the Ukranian president to an organized crime shakedown and paraphrased some of the President’s statements, a characterization that enraged the president. In another tweet, Trump called several members of Congress “savages.”
The whistleblower complaint, reportedly by a CIA agent stationed in the White House, accuses Trump of abusing his power by pressuring a foreign leader to find dirt on a political rival for Trump’s personal gain, then covering up the evidence by ordering call records locked up.
The gist of the whistleblower’s complaint is corroborated by a rough transcript released by the White House which confirms that Trump did ask Ukraine’s president to investigate the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump’s political rival in the 2020 election, for Trump’s personal gain. In that call, the transcript confirms, Trump asked the Ukraine’s president to work with Attorney General William Barr and Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani. Trump pressured the Ukrainian president one week after unilaterally ordering aid to the Ukraine withheld, even though the Ukraine needed that military aid to combat Russian forces.
James Madison, in supporting an impeachment clause to the Constitution, specifically cited his concern over the potential for a leader to “pervert his administration into a scheme of peculation [embezzlement] or oppression. He might betray his trust to foreign powers.”
No modern president has accused Congressional investigators of treason, even during the Watergate investigation of Richard Nixon or the impeachment proceedings against Bill Clinton, nor the repeated investigations of the Obama investigation.
Trump, who has denied wrongdoing, drew further criticisms from some for potentially inciting violence when he paraphrased a supporter and tweeted over the weekend:
“If the Democrats are successful in removing the President from office (which they will never be), it will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal."
The Civil War tweet drew condemnation from Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger. “I have visited nations ravaged by civil war. @realDonaldTrump I have never imagined such a quote to be repeated by a President. This is beyond repugnant,” Kinzinger posted on Twitter.