Donald Trump's son tweets alleged name of whistleblower who triggered impeachment inquiry

Ben Riley-Smith
Donald Trump Jr has made regular appearances at Republican fundraisers and local campaign events since his father won the White House - AP

Donald Trump’s son has tweeted the name of the alleged whistleblower whose complaint about the US president’s behaviour towards Ukraine kick-started the impeachment inquiry.

For days now conservative websites have been publishing stories claiming to have discovered the identity of the CIA officer who filed a complaint about Mr Trump’s behaviour. 

Amid a backdrop of growing partisan attacks on the whistleblower’s credibility, the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr, posted one such story that named the individual and questioned their motives.

After an immediate backlash, Donald Jr doubled down on his action, writing on Twitter: “I love the outrage about me tweeting an article about the ‘alleged’ whistleblower.”

The Telegraph has not independently verified the identity of the whistleblower, who has asked to remain anonymous, and is not publishing the name.

The move comes on the back of a chorus of vitriol from Mr Trump and his supporters directed at the whistleblower, including demands for the person to be named and allegations about their links to Democrats.

 

The whistleblower, who comes from the intelligence community, filed a detailed complaint alleging that Mr Trump had pressured Ukraine to launch an investigation into Joe Biden, the former US vice president who could be the Democratic nominee for the 2020 presidential election.

Many of the details in the complaint, which has since been made public, have been corroborated by other witnesses in the impeachment inquiry that followed, including that Mr Trump requested a Biden investigation while on the phone to the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy. 

Whistleblowers are granted protections in America through a number of overlapping laws, some of which attempt to protect the individual from retribution for coming forward with information.

The Inspector General Act of 1978, for example, bars a government watchdog who receives a complaint from disclosing the identity of that person without consent, unless it is deemed "unavoidable".

The law appears not to bind others, such as the US president or his allies, from outing the whistleblower if the identity is discovered. In a statement issued after Mr Trump Jr's tweet, the whistleblower's attorneys warned that "identifying any suspected name for the whistleblower will place that individual and their family at risk of serious harm".

The statement by Andrew Bakaj and Mark Zaid said that "publication or promotion of a name shows the desperation to deflect from the substance of the whistleblower complaint. It will not relieve the President of the need to address the substantive allegations, all of which have been substantially proven to be true."

The article that Donald Jr tweeted was published by Breitbart, the Right-wing news website. Donald Jr tweeted the headline, which included the name of the alleged whistleblower, as well as a link.

Attacks on the whistleblower have been led by the President himself, who has demanded the right to know who his accuser is and repeatedly questioned the individual’s motives.

Mr Trump tweeted on Monday: "There is no whistleblower. There is someone with an agenda against Donald Trump.”

Rand Paul, the Republican senator from Kentucky, went a step further on Monday as he stood alongside Mr Trump on stage at a rally and threatened to expose the individual.

"We also now know the name of the whistleblower... I say tonight to the media, do your job and print his name,” Mr Paul said to cheering Trump supporters.

Side by side: Donald Trump and Rand Paul Credit: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

Numerous Republican senators distanced themselves from Mr Paul's call, arguing that the whistleblower’s request to remain anonymous should be respected.

It came as the impeachment inquiry – only the fourth to ever be launched against a US president – approached a new phase as public hearings were announced.

Next Wednesday testimony will be given by William Taylor, the chargé d'affaires at America’s Ukraine embassy who said that US aid was held back to secure a Biden investigation, and George Kent, a senior State Department official.

The following Friday Marie Yovanovitch, the former US ambassador to Ukraine who was ousted after a push to get rid of her from Trump allies, will give her account of what happened.

All three figures have given evidence behind closed doors that is unhelpful to Mr Trump’s attempt to wave away the scandal by insisting nothing untoward took place.

The inquiry, which was launched in September, entering into a public phase provides a political challenge for Mr Trump’s Republican defenders.

Thus far they have largely rallied around criticising the process which the Democrats have followed in pushing their inquiry rather than defending the president’s behaviour.

With the facts laid out on live television before an audience of US voters it will be harder for Republican congressmen not to address what they think about how Mr Trump acted.

Mr Trump has admitting that he pushed for an investigation into Mr Biden, but argued that it was important to have alleged corruption looked into. Mr Biden has always denied any wrongdoing.