It’s nice to have a weekend to catch our breath and ponder the testimony given during last week’s impeachment hearings. But even while considering the accusations, their validity and their implications, some conclusions we can draw right now. Among them is that one North Carolina representative has embarrassed our state with his behavior. U.S. Rep. Dan Bishop, who won the special election in the 9th district just last month, got off on the wrong foot last week by apparently becoming the first member of Congress to divulge the purported name of the whistleblower. Doing so is dead wrong.
We understand that, in the midst of the impeachment hearings, which have sharply divided the American people as well as Congress, tempers are flaring and nerves are raw. Many Republicans in the U.S. House contend that they’re being treated unfairly.
If the House narrative prevails and President Trump is impeached, the matter will move to the Republican-controlled Senate, where perhaps they can conduct things a little more to their liking.
In the meantime, while speculation has been rampant, we actually know very little about the whistleblower except that he — should we even be saying he at this point? — followed proper procedures when reporting his concerns to the director of national intelligence, Michael Atkinson. Yet, according to the whistleblower’s legal representative, Andrew Bakaj, not only has President Trump been hostile, but death threats have been made against both the whistleblower and Bakaj. So, among other problems, including reprisals from the president, lives could be at stake if the whistleblower’s identity were revealed.
It’s natural to wonder about his identity, but attempts to reveal it are not only misplaced, they’re dangerous.
That information did not stop Bishop.
“I refuse to cower before the authoritarian intimidation campaign. He’s not Voldemort,” Bishop tweeted Monday. “And he’s not a bona fide whistleblower. Even if he were, he wouldn’t be entitled to secrecy.”
Bishop is hardly in a position to make that determination.
Asked for comment, Bishop said, “The tweet is self-explanatory. That’s my comment.”
Bishop is not alone. Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky also has used the alleged name of the whistleblower, despite his principled stands supporting whistleblower protections in the past. Others have announced the name they suspect.
They might be wrong. But no matter how accurate they are, they’re putting someone’s life in danger — and possibly discouraging future whistleblowers — and for what? Bragging rights?
Some Republicans still understand this and have urged protections for the whistleblower’s identity. They include Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, who last month wrote, “This person appears to have followed the whistleblower protection laws and ought to be heard out and protected. Any further media reports on the whistleblower’s identity don’t serve the public interest.”
He should have a little chat with Bishop.
Politics is often dirty. But there are still some lines that should not be crossed — lines that in the past have been understood to be important, principled, bipartisan standards.
Whistleblowers who reveal illegal or questionable actions among government agencies that might do harm to the country — including the presidency — deserve to be rewarded for their courage, not suffer retaliation.
If Republicans obliterate this standard, they’re likely to regret it at a later time when the shoe is on the other foot.
For anyone who believes in the worth of obeying the law and preserving democracy, revealing the identity of the whistleblower is stepping far over the line of decency. It’s to our shame — and Bishop’s — that a North Carolina legislator should join the other side of that equation.