Lookin' To Launder Your Ukraine Conspiracy BS? Call 1-900-THE-FEDERALIST!
Faced with an incredibly damning whistleblower report that was corroborated by the Ukraine shakedown transcript and Donald Trump's own admission that he tried to lock the incriminating call in the Bin Laden Vault so no one would ever see it, the GOP attack machine lurched into gear to discredit the whistleblower and the Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG). Naturally, The Federalist was first to man the ramparts, laundering a bullshit Twitter thread from some climate-denying loon into a full-blown conspiracy theory that was then broadcast through the president's Twitter megaphone. If bullshit were music, these guys would be a brass band!
Normally we do our best to ignore the Federalist dumpster fire, other than to occasionally ask, "Who funds that rag anyway?" But in this case we're going to have make an exception. So, here is your Anatomy of a Lie, a play in four acts.
Act I: The Nutter
The Republicans have A PLAN to deal with the upcoming impeachment investigation. They're going to jump up and down shouting HEARSAY!!1! while simultaneously launching eleventy million investigations into Hillary Clinton's emails, and hope the whole thing goes away. Or maybe we'll invade Iran!
Sure the whistleblower complaint has been almost entirely corroborated, but what if it doesn't count because all that true information, which the president admitted to, was first reported secondhand? Enter Stephen McIntyre, a climate-hating loon with a website that will make your eyes bleed. On Friday, McIntyre tweeted a thread suggesting that the ICIG had CHANGED THE RULES to allow the whistleblower to submit a complaint based on secondhand information. Whoa if true! (Spoiler alert: Not true.)
The ICIG must be IN ON IT if they changed the rules to accommodate the whistleblower. And thus all the true information he provided is magically untrue. BUSTED, LIBS!
Act II: The Hustler
Here on Planet Earth, Inspector General Michael Atkinson, a Trump appointee, doesn't "make the rules" -- Congress wrote the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act in 1998, and 50 U.S.C. § 3033 sets the "rules" for complaints. There's never been a statutory requirement that the whistleblower report be based on firsthand knowledge, and the ICIG couldn't change that if he wanted to.
But that didn't matter to the hacks over at The Federalist, who packaged up McIntyre's derpings into a breathless article claiming, "Between May 2018 and August 2019, the intelligence community secretly eliminated a requirement that whistleblowers provide direct, first-hand knowledge of alleged wrongdoings." As science proof of the conspiracy, Federalist twit Sean Davis pointed out that the new version of the whistleblower complaint form was uploaded on September 24, 2019 -- six whole weeks after the whistleblower complaint was filed! Which might undercut his point, except there's metadata to prove that the document was revised in August, so CHECK AND MATE!
But wait, there's more! Davis went on to conflate the standard for the ICIG to find the complaint credible with the standard for filing a complaint in the first place. The instructions for the old form stated, "The IC IG cannot transmit information via the ICWPA based on an employee's second-hand knowledge of wrongdoing. This includes information received from another person, such as when a fellow employee informs you that he/she witnessed some type of wrongdoing." In other words, the whistleblower can make a complaint based on second-hand information, after which the ICIG is empowered to investigate and will only sustain the complaint based on other corroborating information. Which appears to be exactly what happened here.
And, by the by, the old form had a space for the complainant to say whether his/her knowledge was first- or secondhand.
All of which Julian Sanchez, of the flaming liberal (haha) Cato Institute, explained to Federalist editor Mollie Hemingway on Thursday night.
But the Federalist isn't so good at checking, particularly when they've got a criminal president to run interference for, so they just ran with it.
Act III: The Henchmen
And then it was off to the races! Because there's never been a bullshit conspiracy theory that Trump didn't fall for hook, line, and sinker.
Dumbass Devin was on the case, teaming up with Kevin McCarthy and Jim Jordan to send ICIG Atkinson a letter saying that "the timing of the removal of the first-hand information requirement raises questions about the potential connections to this whistleblower's complaint," and demanding that the ICIG turn over all documents related to the form revision. Once again, the ICIG cannot unilaterally change the whistleblower reporting "requirements," as those are set by federal law.
And over on the Senate side, Chuck Grassley, Mike Lee, and Ron Johnson have demanded that Atkinson explain to them why the old form, which went into effect five days before Atkinson was sworn in, ambiguously referred to a firsthand knowledge requirement in contravention of federal law.
Because when you've got no defense, you go on offense.
Act IV: The Debunkening
By Monday, ICIG Atkinson had had enough. He released a Statement on Processing of Whistleblower Complaints to rebut the torrent of bullshit that was flooding conservative media. Here are the main points:
- The whistleblower used a hard copy of the old form, complete with the language about firsthand knowledge, not the new form which was posted online six weeks later. So STFU about the ICIG changing the language for this particular whistleblower.
- The whistleblower did indeed have firsthand knowledge of some aspects of the complaint, so he checked both the firsthand knowledge box and the secondhand knowledge one.
- The ICIG personally investigated the secondhand allegations and turned up other substantiating evidence, in accordance with the statute.
- Changing the form cannot change the law, you mendacious, jelly-brained, partisan hacks!
After which The Federalist claimed a flawless victory, and went on to publish two more articles crowing Intel IG Admits It Secretly Erased 'First-Hand Information' Requirement In August and Left Tries To Wave Away IG Changes Allowing Whistleblowers To Weaponize Hearsay. Hacks gonna hack!
And they all lived stupidly ever after. THE END.
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.