Monday, September 30, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

On Sunday, lawyers for the whistleblower whose report has sparked an impeachment inquiry posted a letter they had written on Saturday to the acting Director of National Intelligence, Joseph McGuire. The letter cited their "concerns that our client’s identity will be disclosed publicly and that, as a result, our client will be put in harm’s way," in part because of threats Trump himself had already made. They added,

Moreover, certain individuals have issued a $50,000 “bounty” for “any information” relating to our client’s identity. Unfortunately, we expect this situation to worsen, and to become even more dangerous for our client and any other whistleblowers, as Congress seeks to investigate this matter.

Attempts to identify the whistleblower were already underway over the weekend by people who thought they were acting on Trump's orders, in internet communities of the sort that were manipulated by Russia during the last election. As the Washington Post put it:

The president’s scornful portrayal of the whistleblower shaped and stoked the online conversation throughout the week, as it descended into a case study of the Internet at its worst — frenetic, fueled by rumor and frequently racist, misogynistic and crude. 
...After the complaint was made public Thursday morning, pro-Trump commenters guessed the whistleblower is Hispanic or Jewish or Arab or African American and, many were sure, a woman — though rarely did the commenters use such delicate terms.

Today, Trump himself explicitly said he was seeking the identity of the whistleblower

One of the protections that the whistleblower is entitled to as a matter of law is to have his or her identity kept secret from government officials who may seek revenge. These protections exist so that illegal or corrupt behavior in government can be resolved internally, rather than by public disclosure of secret information.

Why does this matter?