From Donald Trump, prominent Republicans used part of their weekend to falsely accuse Trump's hand-picked General Inspector of Intelligence (IC IG) of secretly changing the requirements for intelligence officials to provide whistleblower tips in a state plot to vacate the appeal of August 12th about Trump's call to the President of Ukraine.
The Smoking Weapon in the Alleged Conspiracy is an opaque form of government, IC IG ICWSP Form 401, also known as the Disclosure of Urgent Concern Form. The document was issued by the IC IG for intelligence staff who are required to file urgent complaints triggering special treatment under the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act.
According to the GOP and an army of conservative commentators, workers in the old version of the form were barred from submitting urgent complaints based on second-hand information. only personally witnessed misconduct could be reported. This changed in early August, the false claim that ICIG Michael Atkinson sneaked through a hasty revision of the complaint form, which reversed the policy of many years.
"Whistleblowers had to gain direct knowledge of allegations first-hand," states Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy in a Saturday Stweet . "But just days before the Ukrainian whistleblower appeared, the IC secretly removed this requirement from the complaint form."
"Records show that the intelligence services tacitly revised the whistleblower formal complaint form in August 2019," Rudy Giuliani tweeted on Sunday . "The requirement to have first-hand direct knowledge about perceived wrongdoing is eliminated. Coincidence? "
" That was literally until apparently recently in shape, "said Trump's other attorney Jay Sukulow at an appearance on Hannity ." Months ago: no first-hand information, no report. " "WOW, they got caught," Trump tweeted. "Finish the witch hunt now!"
The Atkinson smear crops up amidst a broad GOP campaign that seems to discredit the whistleblower report as unreliable, partisan hearsay although this has already been confirmed by an IC IG review and endorsed by the White House's own transcript of Trump's call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, it began late Friday with a story from the conservative Web site The Federalist, titled Secret Knowledge from the Intel Community on Whistleblower Firsthand. "The article claimed," The intelligence community has the formal whistleblower complaint form in the Secretly reworked in August 2019 to eliminate the requirement of first-hand direct knowledge of misconduct. "
" It seems they are jumping to a lot of conclusions based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the law, the regulatory framework and the language in one form, "said Julian Sanchez. Senior Fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute.
The core of the conspiracy theory is that there is indeed a new version of Form 401 from August 2019.
A question on the form expressly anticipates this Tips are based on second-hand information and require the whistleblower to select a check box: "I have direct and personal knowledge" or "I have heard of others". The pen Alist used a screenshot of this field to illustrate his story.
What was not mentioned in the article or shown on the screenshot is a nearly identical field that contains Form 401 since at least May 2018. This makes it impossible for it to be added as a relief to Trump's whistleblower. The main difference in the fields is that the old form contains three options instead of two, dividing used sources into external sources and "other people".
There's a reason why the form allows second hand reports all the time. The requirement for first-hand whistleblowing is completely invented.
"There has never been a requirement for a whistleblower to know first hand what he reports," said Irvin McCullough, an investigator for the charitable Government Accountability Project (and the son) of a former IC IG. "You have to have a reasonable faith. The first-hand information is usually collected by the Inspector General, as I believe has happened here.
If IC IG receives an urgent report, it has 14 days to conduct a preliminary review under the law. If this investigation provides sufficient direct evidence, the IC IG can classify it as "credible," which triggers a legal obligation to forward the report to the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) and from there to Congress.
The federalist and the supporters of the Atkinson smear also refer to a two-page bulletin that was distributed as part of the May 2018 version of the form, but not the August 2019 version. It is unclear when it was dropped, but a paragraph in this preamble, now cut out, was titled "Required First-hand Information" and apparently contradicted the form itself. "In order to make an" urgent "issue believable, the IG must reliable first-hand information, "says the text in part. "The IC IG can not transfer information about the ICWPA based on an employee's knowledge of second-hand misconduct."
Although the text is puzzling – which may be the reason the whole preamble was canned – , careful reading shows that this is not a new hurdle to filing a whistleblower complaint, but describing the type of evidence the IC IG must collect in order to dismiss the complaint at the end of its 14-day investigation as " credible ".
"It's an explanation for the standard of the Credibility Assessment," Sanchez said in an interview with The Daily Beast. "The IG will not forward it to the DNI if it can not confirm used or indirect information – the whistleblower is not charged with investigating, that's the IG's job."
In other words, Trump's whistleblower did not go through dark backdoor, he or she was prosecuting the case, and the government investigators found first-hand evidence themselves.
"The complainant was not a direct witness of the President's telephone call with the Ukrainian president on July 25, 2019," the IG said On August 26, allegations that, among other things, during the call, the president tried to pressure the Ukrainian head of state to take action to support the president's re-election bid for 2020. "