In a stunning move on Friday, the President of the United States defied federal whistleblower protections with a retweet. Trump retweeted a post from a suspected bot account that purports to include the name of the whistleblower who sparked the entire impeachment saga.
While publications and persons close to the president have been sharing the name they believe to be the whistleblower for months, Trump’s tweet marks the first time the president has shared the name of the person.
His actions fly in the face of presidential norms, setting an ever more alarming tone to the chaotic proceedings in Washington D.C.
There was widespread condemnation online in response to the president’s sharing of the alleged name. Legal experts weighed in on the inherent issues of a president using their social media to call out or pressure US citizens. As such phenomenon is unprecedented, it’s unclear what the response to the president’s actions should be.
“By making public the unsubstantiated name of the whistleblower Trump encapsulated the pathology of his presidency,” wrote Carnegie Endowment senior fellow and former State Department Analyst Aaron David Miller. “A callous and cruel disregard for the well-being of anyone or anything untethered from his own personal needs and interests.”
There was some scattered support for the president’s actions from some staunch political allies. “This person had a political vendetta against the president,” said Republican Representative Steve Scalise. “It’s a little concerning that you could have somebody anonymously try to take down a sitting president using innuendo.”
Others, however, have remained silent on the issue, likely not eager to wade into the thorny issue of disagreeing with the famously temperamental president.
Several prominent scholars and legal experts were troubled by the development. Barbara McQuade, professor at the University of Michigan Law School, stated “Outing and shaming whistleblowers harms national security by discouraging government officials from using official channels to report abuses. Alternatives are leaks or, perhaps even worse, silence.”
“Who would want to live in a country where its leader could just name the identity of a whistleblower and invite retaliation against him?” was the question posed by Georgetown University law professor, Neal Katyal. Formerly, Katyal served as the acting solicitor general.