As the Washington Post’s Colby Itkowitz reports:
President Trump retweeted a post naming the alleged whistleblower who filed the complaint that became the catalyst for the congressional inquiry that resulted in his impeachment by the House of Representatives.
On Friday night, Trump shared a Twitter post from @surfermom77, who describes herself as “100% Trump supporter,” with his 68 million followers. That tweet prominently named the alleged whistleblower and suggested that he had committed perjury.
For most of Saturday, the retweet appeared hidden from Trump’s Twitter timeline, though accessible with a link directly to the post. Twitter did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Newsweek details the contents of the presidential Retweet in question:
President Donald Trump reportedly retweeted a controversial post [Pols emphasis] mentioning the alleged name of the Ukraine whistleblower. That retweet, which has since been deleted, prompted allegations he directly broke federal regulations that safeguard such figures from retaliation.
The president’s personal Twitter account retweeted a post from his 2020 campaign’s official “War Room” account Thursday evening that declared: “It’s pretty simple. The CIA ‘whistleblower’ is not a real whistleblower!” and included a link to a Washington Examiner report that named the alleged whistleblower in the headline. [Pols emphasis] Trump’s move reportedly prompted concern from his advisers, including Ivanka Trump…
If the name “Washington Examiner” rings a bell for you, it’s probably because you’re confusing it with the far better known Washington Post, or perhaps even the lesser-known right-wing Washington Times–both of which are seen and discussed by many more Americans. The Washington Examiner is owned by Clarity Media Group, the same company that publishes the Colorado Springs Gazette and the rebranded Colorado Statesman. Clarity Media is owned by billionaire Phil Anschutz, whose dual role as leading Republican donor and owner of reliably conservative local media outlets is a well-documented problem in Colorado politics.
Well folks, it looks like the Phil Anschutz-owned Washington Examiner has made the decision to disclose a name that President Donald Trump and his Republican defenders in Congress have been dying throughout the impeachment process to speak aloud–the name of the alleged whistleblower who went to his superiors with evidence that Trump was extorting Ukraine for domestic political assistance. That’s a very big deal, because:
The Washington Post has chosen not to publish the name. [Pols emphasis] Vice President for Communications Kris Coratti said The Post “has long respected the right of whistleblowers to report wrongdoing in confidence, which protects them against retaliation. We also withhold identities or other facts when we believe that publication would put an individual at risk. Both of those considerations apply in this case.”
Some far-right media outlets and personalities have published stories claiming to know the name of the whistleblower, but his or her identity is not known and has not been reported by mainstream outlets — including CNN. [Pols emphasis]
The Associated Press isn’t going there either:
U.S. whistleblower laws exist to protect the identity and careers of people who bring forward accusations of wrongdoing by government officials. The Associated Press typically does not reveal the identity of whistleblowers. [Pols emphasis]
Even Fox News has not as of this writing been able to work up the nerve:
President Trump’s Twitter account has removed a retweet that contained a link to an article naming the purported Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) whistleblower who helped trigger impeachment proceedings.
The removal comes two days after the retweet generated widespread attention, for essentially referencing a name that has mostly been kept out of congressional hearings and media reports. [Pols emphasis]
Using this incident as a yardstick, it’s very easy to write off the Washington Examiner as a propaganda mill disreputably doing the Trump administration’s dirtiest work–helping to intimidate and even incite retaliation against the whistleblower at the heart of the impeachment case. At the very least, the Examiner should explain why they’ve seen fit to take an action that mainstream media universally considers to be unethical.
Which brings us back to the Colorado Springs Gazette. A search of the Gazette and the rebranded Colorado Statesman return no mentions of the alleged whistleblower, but it’s not like President Trump would Retweet the Gazette over Clarity’s Washington outlet. With that said, the Gazette routinely reprints Washington Examiner stories. Is there a difference between the editorial policies of the Examiner and the Gazette that would prevent this kind of whistleblower retaliation locally? Back in May of 2018, the Gazette quoted a Republican staffer in the Colorado Senate grotesquely smearing a victim of alleged sexual harassment by a GOP Senator–a story that was later heavily edited to remove those smears, and the GOP staffer involved was fired.
Here again is a case–a much more portentous case–of Phil Anschutz’s media machine going where no ethical media outlet was willing to go in the service of GOP political aims. Not even Fox News was willing to do this.
And now we must ask if this is the “new normal” in Colorado, too.