In August, an intelligence analyst filed a whistle-blower complaint alleging that President Donald Trump pressured President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to open an investigation into Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden.
That allegation has since been substantiated by independent reporting, a summary of the call released by the White House, and text messages from Trump officials arguing about the ethics of using taxpayer funds for an act of political extortion. Since then, Trump has publicly reiterated his call for both Ukraine and China, an authoritarian nation seeking relief from a Trump-instigated trade war, to investigate Biden.
You wouldn’t know any of this, however, if you simply read Matt Taibbi’s Rolling Stone column alleging that the person who filed the whistle-blower complaint is “not a real whistleblower.” The allegations, and their subsequent corroboration by the White House’s own documents, are simply not worth explaining. Instead, Taibbi quotes the former CIA analyst Robert Baer as arguing that the whistle-blower is part of a “palace coup against Trump.” Taibbi argues that a “real whistleblower” would have had his life shattered by prosecution or imprisonment, like Thomas Drake or Chelsea Manning. The column makes a strong case that the whistle-blower is not punk enough for Taibbi, but it does not even try to make the case that the individual in question has not exposed serious abuses of power. (Taibbi similarly fails to mention that rules protecting intelligence-community whistle-blowers have been strengthened in recent years, in part to make it so that going public isn’t the only option.)