When members of Congress so blatantly and cavalierly break a specific law designed to, among other things, allow their branch of government to provide oversight, it is time to call them out and to take remedial action. In this case I refer to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who, contrary to his libertarian pretensions, has called for the government to violate the rights of the whistleblower who sparked the impeachment investigation to remain anonymous.

At a rally with President Trump on Monday, Paul declared, “The whistleblower needs to come before Congress as a material witness because he worked for Joe Biden at the same time Hunter Biden was getting money from corrupt oligarchs. I say tonight to the media: Do your job and print his name.”

There is no evidence that the whistleblower worked for Biden, but even if he did he is protected by the whistleblower statute. As former Democratic senator Claire McCaskill tartly observed on MSNBC, “Well, Rand Paul’s just kind of an idiot about stuff. This is so silly. We all know that the whistleblower’s account has been corroborated by information directly from the White House, and now, layer upon layer upon layer of corroboration.”

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Paul, like Trump, is seeking to unmask the whistleblower’s identity with the full knowledge that doing so would invite retaliation and surely put him in danger. Already, CNN reports, “The legal team representing the whistleblower who ignited the impeachment investigation has received death threats that have led to at least one law enforcement investigation, according to a source familiar with the situation.” Although that threat was deemed not to be credible, “there have been myriad disturbing emails and voice mails sent to the legal team, with a few select messages crossing the line enough into direct threats of harm that have resulted in follow up from relevant law enforcement entities.”

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) was irate. “Now, last night, the president held a political rally in Kentucky with several Republican elected officials, including the junior senator from Kentucky, who publicly and explicitly urged the media to disclose the identity of the federal whistleblower,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. “The president, of course, quickly praised the senator’s idea. I cannot stress just how wrong this is. We have federal whistleblower laws designed to protect the identity and safety of patriotic Americans who come forward to stand up for the Constitution.” Schumer then lit into Republicans:

There are members on the other side of the aisle, including senior members and chairs of committees, who have spent their entire careers defending whistleblowers and the laws that protect them and their families.
Where are they now? I was pleased to hear that my colleague Senator [John] Thune [R-S.D.] spoke out and said whistleblowers must be protected. I believe Senator [Charles E.] Grassley [R-Iowa] said the same. They’re both right, but there should be bipartisan outrage at the public attempts by the president and a member of this body to expose the identity of a federal whistleblower. ...
Our rhetoric can sometimes be overheated, but I am appalled by these developments. There is no other word for it. We are in a moment of history when Republicans, over only a few weeks, have shifted from saying that no laws were broken to saying that laws were broken, but it’s not impeachable, to outright advocating that laws be broken. What? Where is the internal gyroscope, the clock of decency and honor on the other side?

At some point impeachment articles are likely to be voted upon and go to the Senate for trial. Quite likely, one article will include witness intimidation and/or violation of the whistleblower statute, considering the president’s public declaration analogizing those who report wrongdoing to spies deserving of the death penalty. How is Paul, who has encouraged and joined in the mob calling to unmask the whistleblower, supposed to render an impartial verdict? He would be implicating himself in the very same wrongdoing.

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Paul should be called out by his peers, refrain from further such outbursts and step aside in a Senate trial with respect to articles involving the president’s attempts to out and intimidate a whistleblower. His conduct is not protected by the speech and debate clause of the Constitution; he is subject to the same laws that prevent Trump or any other American from intimidating witnesses.

Paul and others who have engaged in the very conduct that may be the subject of the impeachment need to recuse themselves. Their conduct is contrary to their body’s responsibility of oversight, in violation of their oaths of office and thoroughly disqualifying.

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