The Atlantic Politics Daily: It’s Whistle-blower Season

Today, when the whistle-blower drip becomes a flood. Plus, the Syria ceasefire and the fury. Finally, an argument about GOP hypocrisy.

Today in Politics

It’s Wednesday, October 23. Today, when the whistle-blower drip becomes a flood. Plus, the ceasefire and the fury. Finally, an argument about GOP hypocrisy.

(Tom Brenner / Reuters)

September may feel like an eternity ago, but murmurs of impeachment crescendoed into a yell last month, when reports emerged of an anonymous whistle-blower complaint about one now very notorious Ukraine call.

As an official impeachment inquiry ramps up, that still-anonymous person is clearly on the president’s mind (just today, Trump tweeted, “where is the Whistleblower”). But the number of whistle-blowers have been multiplying, as my colleague Russell Berman writes:

“The president now finds himself virtually surrounded by them, as one official after another treks to Capitol Hill to accuse Trump of putting his own political interests ahead of the nation’s. The clamor is powering the congressional impeachment investigation that Trump has failed to thwart, and that now threatens his presidency.” [Read Russell’s full story here.]

Among the latest to cry foul is William Taylor, president Trump’s envoy to Ukraine, who testified on Capitol Hill yesterday in a deposition my colleague David Graham argues was so damning that impeachment is no longer a question of if, but when.

Since the day Trump took office, he’s complained of a “deep state” within the federal government, out to thwart his presidency. But these whistle-blowers aren’t subverting Trump through back-door machinations, they’re simply playing by the rules, my colleague Mike Giglio, who covers intelligence and national security, writes:

“Despite the White House’s best efforts, the fact that the whistle-blower filed a complaint through proper government channels has made it harder for the usual attacks about traitors and dirty tricks to stick.”

— Saahil Desai


(Yuri Gripas  / Reuters)

Representative Steve Scalise, the House minority whip, was one of more than 20 Republicans who stormed a secure hearing room on Capitol Hill, where members of Congress were conducting a deposition of Laura Cooper, a Defense Department official, as part of the House’s closed-door impeachment inquiry.

Some of those who RSVP’d to join the protest are already members of the House Oversight or Foreign Affairs committees.

Russell Berman and Elaine Godfrey explored the tightrope Democrats are walking between the expedience of closed-door hearings and transparency that could move public opinion in their favor.

In Other News

(Azad Lashkari / Reuters)

Ceasefire, ceased. President Trump wants to wash his hands of the Middle East. Uri Friedman writes on the grave consequences to seeming disentanglement.

+ “So maybe it didn’t matter what you called it—it more or less worked. That is, in the very narrow sense of stopping the worst of the Turkish onslaught against the Syrian Kurds for a time,” Kathy Gilsinan reports.

Facebook faced the fire. Among the questions Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg fielded before the House Financial Service Committee today was one that bordered on a conspiracy theory, Rachel Gutman writes.

+ Zuckerberg was officially on Capitol Hill to discuss the company’s proposed cryptocurrency plans. “Facebook, one of the world’s most distrusted companies, wants us to trust its new Libra cryptocurrency,” Eric Posner argued earlier this year.

Argument of the Day

(Kenzo Tribouillard / Reuters)

Kurt Bardella, an advisor for the House Oversight and Reform Committee during its investigation into the deaths of Americans in Benghazi, Libya, argues that Republicans are approaching the House Democrats’ impeachment probe with hypocrisy. (Of note: Bardella switched party affiliations in 2017.)

For eight years, House Republicans searched for a “smoking gun” that could unravel the presidency of Barack Obama. They presided over hundreds of oversight hearings, issued more than 100 subpoenas, held the attorney general in contempt of Congress, and even formed a special select committee devoted exclusively to one investigation, on Benghazi. As someone who spent five years working alongside Republicans on the Oversight Committee, I can tell you that we never found a “smoking gun” like the testimony that was provided yesterday from the senior U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, William B. Taylor.

→ Read the rest

+ More from Bardella:We Wouldn’t Have Let Obama Get Away With This(April 2019)

What Our Reporters Are Reading

The Other Dreamers (Daniel Block, Washington Monthly)

All in All, CNN Would Rather Be the One Who Knocks (Joshua Benton, Nieman Journalism Lab)

‘Centrism Is Canceled’: High Schoolers Debate the Impeachment Inquiry (Audra D. S. Burch, The New York Times) (🔒Paywall)

About us: The Atlantic’s politics newsletter is a daily effort from our politics desk. Today’s edition was written by Saahil Desai, with help from Christian Paz, and edited by Shan Wang.

You can reach us with questions, comments, or concerns anytime by replying directly to this email.

Your support makes our journalism possible. Subscribe here.