Schiff
© Reuters/Yara Nardi
Schiffting the blame...
In his full-bore efforts to impeach President Donald Trump, Congressman Adam Schiff has repeatedly demanded that the whistleblower responsible for the fiasco need[s] protection. Just don't mention Snowden, Assange or Manning to him.

The whistleblower - reportedly a CIA officer whose name has been circulating in the media but remains officially anonymous - kicked off the impeachment inquiry by claiming that Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine unless President Volodymyr Zelensky reopened a corruption investigation into former US VP Joe Biden's family. Despite Trump's release of a transcript of the call that showed the allegation of 'quid-pro-quo' was flimsy at best, Schiff has nevertheless pressed ahead.

Cue a parade of deep state bureaucrats testifying over whether or not this quid-pro-quo took place, the answer to which varies wildly depending on the witness, and often on the wording of the question. Schiff has repeatedly denied knowing the identity of the whistleblower, but cuts off off any questioning by Republicans that comes remotely close to picking out the agency he works for, under the auspices of not "outing" him.


Schiff has even gone as far as to suggest that the whistleblower has "a statutory right to anonymity" - a statement that, for better or worse, is simply not true. He also insisted that it may put the person in danger. Yet he has not shown such care for any other whistleblowers.

Schiffting priorities

Whatever his reasons, Schiff has demonstrated a remarkable turnaround in his opinion on whistleblowing. Back in 2016, then-ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee didn't defend National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden. Instead, Schiff signed off on a report accusing Snowden of serial lying, colluding with Russia, and spilling agency secrets for personal gain. Schiff said:
"Snowden and his defenders claim that he is a whistleblower, but he isn't. Most of the material he stole had nothing to do with Americans' privacy... The US government must hold him accountable for his actions."
Unlike the supposed 'quid-pro-quo' arrangement spelled out by the mystery CIA whistleblower, the NSA's warrantless collection of Americans' phone records was very much illegal, according to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Schiff and a bipartisan consensus of swamp-dwellers didn't expend any energy defending Snowden's rights, however. Instead, Schiff personally wrote to President Barack Obama, urging him not to pardon Snowden. The former NSA contractor now lives in Moscow, where he sought asylum from espionage charges.

Ditto for Chelsea Manning, the US Army whistleblower who handed evidence of US war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq over to WikiLeaks. Though Manning's sentence was commuted by Obama in 2016, she was thrown back in jail earlier this year for refusing to testify against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Schiff couldn't care less about Manning, though. When asked about Manning's sentence by a reporter at a gay pride parade in 2014, the California congressman simply responded "I'm just here for the party today."

Nor does he care about Assange, jailed in Britain and facing extradition to the US for his role in publishing Manning's revelations. As Schiff and his fellow Democrats thundered non-stop about "Russian collusion" last year, Assange offered to meet with Schiff and show proof that no such collusion took place, according to an intermediary.

Schiff was neither interested in the truth nor in protecting Assange's rights. "Our committee would be willing to interview Julian Assange when he is in US custody, not before," he responded.
Thus far, with the whistleblower absent from Schiff's hearings, all the impeachment inquiry has on Trump is that he practiced foreign policy in a way that was "inconsistent with the consensus views of the interagency," in the words of witness Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman on Tuesday. In other words, Trump set his own agenda when speaking to Zelensky, and didn't act as a sock puppet for the US "deep state."

The whistleblower's testimony may also prevent Schiff from ad-libbing the content of the Trump-Zelensky phone call, as he did before Congress in September, in a bizarre attempt to divine "the essence of what the president communicates." After all, if the star witness can't confirm the allegations, he also can't deny them.

The noncommittal conclusion of the Mueller report was seen as grounds for impeachment by certain Democrats, and as a complete exoneration by Trump and the GOP. In selling the public on Schrodinger's impeachment inquiry, first-hand testimony from the whistleblower himself might send Schiff's house of cards tumbling down.