To prosecute, a prosecutor tries to prove means, motive, intent as well as the elements of the crime itself. Not all crimes are prosecuted. Republicans know this and one of their tricks is to use it to their advantage.
The Republican Slow-Leak Conspiracy Formula:
- Get someone in the government to leak to the press.
- If the MSM does not bite, get a right-wing outlet to report the thing.
- Someone else of minor power magnifies it. For example, a tweet or interview from Trump Jr, Roger Stone, Michael Cohen, etc.
- The MSM press covers the story one way or another.
- The right-wing echo chamber escalates the issue by repeating any and all reporting on the subject in order to push a narrative.
Valerie Plame Conspiracy
The Valerie Plame conspiracy is an interesting and well-known example. Also known as the Plame affair, CIA leak scandal, and Plamegate, it was a political scandal that revolved around television personality Robert Novak’s public identification of Valerie Plame as a covert CIA officer in 2003.
Plame wrote a memo in 2002 to her superiors in which she expressed hesitation in recommending her husband Joseph Wilson for a mission to Niger to investigate claims that Iraq had arranged to purchase and import uranium from the country. After President Bush, Jr. stated that “Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa” during the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Wilson published a 2003 OPED stating his doubts of the transaction.
A week after Wilson’s OPED, Novak published a column which mentioned claims from “two senior administration officials” that Plame had been the one to suggest sending her husband. Novak had learned of Plame’s employment, which was classified information, from State Department official Richard Armitage–obvious political retribution for Wilson’s article. The scandal led to a criminal investigation.
Would you have prosecuted anyone? If so, who? The government official who first outed a CIA operative? The reporter who reported it? Others?
Whether a prosecutor would prosecute or not is a question. In the Valerie Plame situation, The Bush Administration obviously broke several laws when they conspired to out and destroy Valerie Plame and her husband.
Ultimately several people went to jail for several things, but none went to jail for the crime of outing a CIA operative because they felt it was too difficult to win in court. That does not change the fact that those people are still guilty as hell and their treasonous behavior is another example of the us-vs-them viewpoint of conservatives and an example of their continuous un-American behavior. Scooter Libby was convicted of lying to investigators and his prison sentence was commuted by President Bush, and he was pardoned by Trump in 2018.
Ukraine Whistleblower Conspiracy
The Trump administration wants to find a way to out the person who “reported” a crime, the whistleblower. Why do they want to do this? So they can pivot and move the conversation from looking at evidence to smearing the person who asked the authorities to look into it.
If you are not familiar with #UkraineGate, you can read the following article:
Trump, #UkraineGate Essential Timeline
The whistleblower provision specifically says the inspector general should not disclose the whistleblower’s identity without their consent unless the watchdog determines that “such disclosure is unavoidable during the course of the investigation.”
Do you agree that it is a good idea to not publicly expose a whistleblower? Think about all the public policy reasons for not outing the person reporting government wrongdoing. And, remember, they are ONLY reporting something to look into. An investigation will either generate real evidence or not.
Trump Avoiding Outing the Whistleblower
One of my Trump supporting friends said to me, “I’m pretty sure that somebody, somewhere could out the whistleblower without running afoul of the law. His wife, for instance.” His point was that there are times outing a whistleblower is okay, therefore it is always okay. That, of course, is a logical fallacy with several problems including that it’s a strawman argument.
The law is clear that it is against the law for anyone in the chain of command of the inspector general including those below and above him to out a whistleblower, it is questionable if it is illegal for others outside that chain of command. I think the legality of any act depends on the details.
Notice Trump to date has not outed the whistleblower. Why? Because it’s against the law for anyone in the chain of command of the inspector general including those below and above him. Like the Valerie Plame conspiracy, Trump wants others to out the whistleblower so he can pivot his supporters from looking at evidence to smearing the person who asked the authorities to look into it. I’m watching to see if Trump’s frustration waiting pushes him to out the whistleblower himself.
If President Trump decides to out the whistleblower, he is CLEARLY breaking the law. If I was a prosecutor, I probably wouldn’t go after the President for just that crime, but if he then tries to smear the whistleblower he is further breaking the law (witness tampering, and abuse of power). At that point, I would prosecute him if it were up to me. For some reason, Republicans currently believe the President of the United States is above the law, a position most of us believe was settled in 1215 with the Magna Carta. If I were supporting Trump, or Republicans, this one fact would make me drop them like a hot potato.
Is Donald Trump, Jr. Liable for outing the Whistleblower?
To prosecute, a prosecutor tries to prove means, motive, intent as well as the elements of the crime itself. Not all crimes are prosecuted and rich white males in positions of power tend to abuse the law and generally get away with it more than the average person who abides by the law. Prosecutors generally go after the easy to win cases.
So, as an example, prosecutors go after the first person to break the law. In this case, although Trump Jr participated in a conspiracy to out the whistleblower, a prosecutor would likely go after the government official who leaked it to the Drudge Report. Whether or not the Drudge Report broke the law is a first amendment journalism battle that we all support, but not for ongoing or new crimes. In this case, it’s clear a conspiracy to out the whistleblower is afoot. Trump Jr. knows all this and is hiding behind, “he did it first”. Also, the Drudge Report is not in the clear because this is an ongoing conspiracy, but we all know our journalism laws will protect them…in the end.
Trump supporters want to conflate issues in order to avoid the fact that outing a whistleblower is against the law, wrong, and un-American. Beyond that, I’m not sure why we are discussing this except that exploring the nuance of any issue is interesting and edifying.