For Whom the Whistle Blows

(Door Hugo  Kijne te Hoboken USA)

There were two whistleblowers this summer, at least as far as we know.  The first one, a federal employee, reported improper interference in the IRS’s handling of Trump’s tax returns to House Democrats, who in turn used that information in their lawsuit to have the Treasury Department turn over the returns to Congress, while the Manhattan District Attorney demanded the returns from the accounting firm that handles the president’s taxes.  Trump’s lawyers were able to block this request in the last minute, claiming that ‘the president cannot be investigated.’  In DC a bigger scandal is developing.  A member of the intelligence community, who was stationed at the White House, filed a formal whistleblower complaint about a ‘troubling’ promise Trump made in a phone call to a foreign leader.  The Inspector General found the complaint credible and marked it as of ‘urgent concern’ before sending it over to the Acting Director of National Intelligence, who refused to share the information with the House Intelligence Committee as he is bound to do by law, because ‘it pertains to a person outside of the intelligence services.’

There is plenty of speculation about who the promise was made to and what was promised, but it must go well beyond policy decisions that are the president’s prerogative, like lifting all sanctions on Russia.  According to the Washington Post it involves Ukraine and points at interference in the US elections.  True to form the president called the information fake news, and asked if anybody really thought that he would say something incredibly stupid while many people were listening in.  The correct answer to that question is ‘quite possibly,’ because Trump once revealed classified Israeli intelligence to the Russian Foreign Secretary and Ambassador in the Oval Office and recently tweeted a secret satellite image of the damage caused by an explosion at an Iranian space center.  Yesterday the Inspector General testified to the House Intelligence Committee and wanted but was not allowed to reveal the nature of the complaint, and next week the Acting DNI will testify in an open session.  His attempt to keep the information secret will fail, because too many people in and around the White House know about it and it will inevitably leak.

If the second whistleblower caused one headache for Trump, another headache is also entirely of his own making.  Pulling the US out of the Iran nuclear agreement and imposing heavy sanctions on that country has put its leadership in a belligerent mood and led to the attack on Saudi oil fields.  Initially the president suggested that the US would do the Saudi’s military business, because ‘they pay cash,’ but he soon backed away from that position, realizing that a new war in the Middle East would totally disrupt the world economy and ruin his chances of being re-elected.

Secretary of State Pompeo called the attack on the oil fields an ‘act of war,’ and seemed ready to respond in kind, but Trump realizes that he has to talk tough but act like a chicken, or, in other words, speak loudly but carry no stick.  One bizarre aspect of this situation is that only last week the president, as well as Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, emphatically stated that Trump would meet with the Iranians without pre-conditions, something he now calls fake news.

Next to harassing the Federal Reserve into another rate cut the president found time to try and revoke California’s authority to set its own emission standards for cars.  This is a complete  exercise in futility, because car manufacturers realize very well that Trump won’t be in the Oval Office forever, and that lowering standards now will only get them into trouble in the future.

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