Why the GOP Should Embrace the Whistleblower If They Want to Survive Trump’s Impeachment
Anyone caught toeing the line won’t have a career to speak of when it’s all over
Never go all in unless you know you can win. Always hedge your bets.
That’s more than sound gambling advice. It’s sound political advice, too — advice that many GOP members are refusing to heed at their own peril.
As the biggest political firestorm since watergate engulfs Trump and his administration, the scandal involving an implicit quid pro quo with Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, threatens to take down the entire Republican Party along with it.
But we’ve seen this movie before, right? The Oo’s and ahh’s, an entire electorate gasping in disbelief as the president man-child makes quick work of undoing 300 years of perfecting our democratic republic. But the tension builds to an apex of climactic anticipation that never seems to tip. And those of us sane enough to care resume a roller coaster of hopeless anxiety, waiting for the next shoe to drop. Sound familiar?
But while there are certainly reasons to be skeptical that calls for impeachment would actually result in Trump’s removal, there are a few factors that would suggest jaded citizens may very well see justice served — and that should frighten any GOP lawmaker toeing the line.
This ain’t Mueller.
While the president and his men would love you to believe that investigating Trump’s latest foray into lawlessness is simply Mueller 2.0, the reality is much different. Unlike the Russia probe, Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president provides fresh fodder for an impeachment narrative that the public can easily digest.
Mueller’s investigation involved wading through a labyrinth of convoluted and densely boring details about past events. While the final report was comprehensive and damning enough — explicit in its refusal to exonerate the president of any wrong doing — the public certainly didn’t read it.
That’s because the examination of past events lacks critical urgency to a generation bent on instant gratification and whatever comes next. And so the result was a hodgepodge of fuzzy memories, barren testimonies, and he-said-she-said debates of merit, all ending in plausible deniability.
But that was then. This is now.
The president’s implicit quid pro quo — that the Ukrainian government investigate Trump’s political rival, Joe Biden, in exchange for military aid — is an event unfolding in real time. This isn’t conjecture about collusion and conspiracy, easily lost on the minds of the legally ignorant, and explained away by circumstance and poor memory.
The White House released the transcript summary. Trump’s own words are right there in black and white, word for word. And it all matches the whistleblower’s complaint, which is available for anyone to read on the Internet. And if that weren’t enough, Trump literally went on live television and made a second request that Biden be investigated by foreign powers, and now there’s a second whistleblower coming forward.
Trump’s distraction game is good. But it’s not so good that it could drown out an avalanche of facts. That’s why this impeachment could happen. This is Trump’s strategy in reverse — overload the information channels with facts and the administration’s house of cards will topple under the weight.
A whistleblower changes the game.
The Russia story required voters to put together a lot of puzzle pieces they didn’t understand. And in the context of then-candidate Trump’s run for president, this left his accusers easily labeled as political rivals with scores to settle. With the facts so tainted by the political upset of Donald Trump’s win, there was just no clear path forward. Those on the left of the aisle could only point fingers from the sidelines, looking in from the outside on past events that had long faded in the memories of both the players and spectators.
But this whistleblower situation is very different.
The entire spirit and reality of whistleblowing is an event which occurs contemporaneously with the events of wrong doing. Therefore, because it relies on extemporaneous evidence and fresh memories in the present, it’s not something that can be planned or coordinated.
That’s why Trump’s drum beating about the forever bitterness over Democrats’ political defeat doesn’t hold water.
Whistleblowers come from the inside, and often represent rank and file officials who otherwise have no reason to rock the boat. And in the case of this whistleblower, having both first- and second-hand knowledge of the president’s abuse of power, the complaint has been deemed urgent and credible by one of Trump’s own appointees, inspector general Michael Atkinson.
And lastly, though whistleblowers are offered special protections under the law, there’s no real incentive for them to break rank and alert ethics watchdogs. There’s no fame or fortune attached to holding power responsible — quite the opposite, actually. In reality, whistleblowers suffer great professional and personal loss as a result of coming forward.
A breakneck pace.
The Mueller investigation took about two years. And that was just enough time for everyone to ask, “Mueller who?”
But not this time.
The launch of a formal impeachment inquiry now puts the House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and Chairmen of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, in charge of messaging: provide documents and cooperate with subpoenas, or else. Any stone walling will be used to build an obstruction of justice case in bringing forth additional articles of impeachment. No more negotiating testimony. No more pleasantries and grace periods of good faith. It’s put up, or shut up.
Democrats got it wrong the first go around, underestimating the importance of public opinion and the attention span of the average American voter. The thresholds for tolerating legal minutia and the details of the Mueller probe were breached early on in an investigation that lacked the salience of sexy stay power.
News becomes old news fast. And no one cares about old news because, by default, it doesn’t feel relevant.
So this time around, Democrats are keeping it new, simple, and snappy, focusing on a slimmed-down picture of a corrupt president leveraging tax dollars to advance his political career at the expense of national security. A bribe, more or less. That’s something most people can easily understand.
How the GOP can still save itself
Predictably, Trump has much of the GOP in lockstep with whatever flavor of crazy he’s looking to dole out this week. But the real tragedy is watching congressional Republicans throw away their careers so needlessly.
It’s beyond cringeworthy, having to witness GOP lawmakers create impossible mental pretzels in order to justify the president’s solicitation for foreign aid in a U.S. election — pitiful, really. And every time one of them approaches a camera, the blood drains from their face and you can practically hear the meat of their brains frying up against the side of their skulls.
But as the evidence mounts, the corner they’ve backed themselves into gets smaller and smaller, and the excuses become more outrageous. From suggesting that this was all just a joke, to insisting that the whistleblower isn’t actually a whistleblower (not sure how that one works), to evoking a full-blown deep-state conspiracy theory, GOP members have left nothing off the table in a race to see who can destroy their career faster.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Republicans can still depart this sinking ship with some grace and their political careers in tact. Trump may get impeached, but they can still win. All they have to do is embrace the whistleblower.
Embracing the whistleblower is the only way out of this mess for anyone protecting the president. Here’s why:
Even if Trump isn’t ultimately removed from office, he will be impeached. The writing is on the wall, and the president has squandered his leverage in releasing the transcript summary and appearing on live television to repeat the same infractions of which he’s accused.
But because impeachment is such a rare event, this page in American history will be highlighted, in vibrant color, forever. And right next to the bedtime story about the most corrupt president in history, will be the names of every GOP member that aided and abetted his charade.
But if GOP members embrace the whistleblower now, it might provide them adequate cover for history to cut them a break.
Because the whistleblower’s identity is unknown, it limits the president’s ability to discredit them and distract from the hard facts. (This is why Trump wants to unmask the whistleblower so badly). That anonymity also buys time for Republicans on the hill to assume a position of familiar party rhetoric about the rule of law, respect for law enforcement, and the importance of national security — all while they wait for a smoking gun.
In appearing to uphold laws that protect the whistleblower, and allowing for the appropriate channels of evidential discovery, GOP lawmakers create an opportunity to later pivot on the innocence of ignorance. When public opinion and the polls finally reach a tipping point and the smoking gun is revealed, those left toeing the line can simply let go and say “Okay, this is the evidence we were looking for all along, and now that it’s here, let’s impeach.”
That’s a win. And the opposite scenario is also a win.
If the impeachment inquiry and whistleblower fail to produce a smoking gun, Republicans can claim unwavering loyalty to the president and boast about having respected the rule of law by giving fair play to the investigation.
In the meantime, GOP members currently locked into a losing battle on a sinking ship with the president. But anyone hoping to appease the president, save their career, and still end up on the right side of history, should consider embracing the whistleblower.