Editorial: Trump's behavior reflects his abuse of high office

Posted January 6, 2020 5:00 a.m. EST
Updated January 6, 2020 9:56 a.m. EST

CBC Editorial: Monday, Jan. 6, 2020; Editorial #8496
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company.

The day after Christmas the president of the United States sent a tweet to his 68 million followers. It included a name that many, largely among fringe Alt-Right ideologues, have sought to link to a whistleblower. This whistleblower’s complaint about President Donald Trump’s conduct during a July 25 phone call with the Ukrainian president revealed inappropriate behavior and sparked the presidential impeachment inquiry.

Trump’s complaint, claim or excuse for engaging in such irresponsible behavior? “The CIA ‘whistleblower’ is not a real whistleblower!” he tweeted along with link that claims to name the suspected whistleblower.

There has been no independent confirmation of that name. The lawyer for the whistleblower has refused to confirm or deny the identity of his client – for concerns about safety and security of his client.

Mean-spirited insults, lies, humiliation, intimidation and degradation. No responsible parent would tolerate such behavior from their children. It is certainly no way for a president to behave. Since Jan. 20, 2017 it has become the norm.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted for articles of impeachment – arising from Trump’s abusive conduct – and it will be up to the Senate to determine the president’s guilt or innocence.

North Carolina’s senators, Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, need to go on record:

  1. Do they approve of Donald Trump’s conduct in office? If the answer is yes, explain why it is appropriate for the president to spout mean-spirited insults and lies – and why it is ok for him to humiliate, intimidate and degrade.
  2. If they do not approve of the president’s conduct in office, explain why they still tolerate it.
  3. If they do not approve of the president’s conduct in office, explain why they will not vote to find him guilty of the impeachment charges against him.

It is unclear whether it is specifically illegal for the president to reveal the name of a whistleblower – who acted lawfully in filing the complaint in accord with the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act of 1998. The law passed with broad bipartisan support. It lays out the process for reporting allegations of waste, fraud and violations of law. The law forbids the CIA’s inspector general from independently disclosing a whistleblower’s identity. There are rules in congressional committees that impose penalties on members who disclose the source of whistleblower complaints.

Trump wants disclosure, except when it involves him. He won’t release his tax returns (as presidential candidates of all persuasions have done for decades). He won’t disclose details of foreign business partnerships. He refused to detail how he benefitted from the tax cut laws he promoted and signed into law.

The president passing on the name of someone who may, or may not, be the person who filed the whistleblower complaint is a step too far. North Carolina’s members of congress should call out and denounce this behavior.

Burr, who heads the Senate’s Intelligence Committee, particularly must speak out. More than most, he knows first-hand the value of the whistleblower law; the legitimate reasons it provides for confidentiality and the destruction and harm that can come when sources are intimidated and threatened – particularly by a president.

Last November, Burr told The Hill newspaper: "We protect whistleblowers.” He also said that he “never” thought of disclosing the identity of this whistleblower. He has sought to have the whistleblower speak to his committee, saying: “We have a proven track record of protecting people's identity.”

As the Senate prepares for a trial on the articles of presidential impeachment passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, Burr and Tillis need to honor their oath of office, commitment to North Carolina voters and duty to the nation.

The president’s own behavior has contributed little to convince anyone that he has not abused the powers of his office. To silently tolerate that without any evidence to the contrary is irresponsible.

Capitol Broadcasting Company's Opinion Section seeks a broad range of comments and letters to the editor. Our Comments beside each opinion column offer the opportunity to engage in a dialogue about this article.

In addition, we invite you to write a letter to the editor about this or any other opinion articles. Here are some tips on submissions >> SUBMIT A LETTER TO THE EDITOR