The weekend’s hot Republican talking point aimed at discrediting the whistleblower on Donald Trump’s Ukraine call is—guess what—completely false. In short: No, the intelligence community inspector general did not change the whistleblower reporting form to allow secondhand information just before this specific whistleblower came forward with secondhand information. Nope nope nope—and even Donald Trump’s own Department of Justice offers indirect evidence to that effect.
The claim originally came from a right-wing website and quickly jumped to the House minority leader, Rudy Giuliani, and the conspiracy theorist-in-chief, as a way of claiming that this was a deep state conspiracy against Trump. The grain of truth here is that the reporting form was changed in August 2019. But, The Daily Beast reports, there “is a nearly identical field gracing Form 401 since at least May 2018, making it impossible that it was added as an easement for Trump’s whistleblower. The major difference in the fields is that the old form includes three options instead of two, subdividing secondhand sources into outside source and ‘other employees.’” So … the form changed, but it always offered an option for reporting information from secondhand sources.
A different document, from May 2018, has a heading saying, “First-Hand Information Required”—but that requirement is explained to apply to the inspector general, who cannot label a whistleblower report as credible without an investigation turning up firsthand information. In this case regarding the Ukraine call, the intelligence committee inspector general did an investigation and did turn up enough evidence to label the complaint credible. That’s what got us to where we are now.
Media Matters points out yet another reason to know that the Republican screaming about the form having been changed is a load of nonsense: Donald Trump’s Department of Justice tried to combat the IG’s determination that the whistleblower complaint was credible, but in 11 pages of explaining why the complaint shouldn’t be credible, “there is no discussion of a firsthand knowledge requirement. If there was, the OLC opinion would undoubtedly have simply stated that the complaint was prima facie inadequate for ‘urgent concern’ status.”
Republicans are backed into a corner and they’re trying to scream and lie and bully their way out. As usual.