Fmr Nixon leaker: Everyone hearing Ukraine call is impeachable; Trump put bullseye on whistleblower

(Image: CNN screenshot)

The former Defense and State Department official who leaked Nixon administration documents in the 1970s is urging protection of the identity of the whistleblower who set off the impeachment inquiry of President Trump.

Daniel Ellsberg believes Trump has put a “bullseye” on the back of the whistleblower and that person’s anonymity needs to be maintained to protect him or her from the president’s “vigilante constituency.”

(Video: CNN)

The Pentagon Papers leaker spoke with CNN‘s John Berman about reports that Democrats running the impeachment inquiry may not even call for testimony from the anonymous whistleblower who sparked a controversy by filing the complaint about Trump’s Ukraine call.

“Dan, the whistleblower’s attorney says the person’s identity is no longer relevant. What do you make of that argument?” Berman asked “legendary whistleblower” Ellsberg, the military strategist who worked for the RAND Corporation and leaked secret government documents to the New York Times in 1971.

“It makes sense,” Ellsberg replied. “What they have revealed, what she has revealed or he, is what’s at stake now and there seems to be a lot of corroborating evidence for that now, so it is not the person, it is the information and that seems to be out now.”

“So does this person, in your mind, even if the identity is kept secret, need to testify?” Berman asked.

“President Trump has put a bullseye on the back of that person by calling them a traitor, a spy, and almost calling on his vigilante constituency to take care of this troublesome person for him,” Ellsberg responded.

The president has called out the whistleblower and has said he would like to meet with his “fraudulent” accuser, referring to the actions as treasonous and being “close to a spy.”

“So I think that every effort should be made to keep that person’s identity secret for their own safety, which I think is very much at stake,” Ellsberg told CNN’s Berman. “I hope that she or he will not have to testify. On the other hand, having gone this far, I have a feeling they’re courageous enough to do it if it’s necessary.”

He recounted his own experience of being in “physical danger” to that of the current whistleblower’s safety.

“My wife used to worry that I was in physical danger under President [Richard] Nixon,” he said.

“But I didn’t think it was a problem for US citizens, like me. I was wrong. She was right,” He continued. “On May 3rd, 1972, a dozen CIA assets came up from Miami with orders to incapacitate me totally. And those orders came out of the White House. So they didn’t do it because they felt they were being set up as patsies. But that’s why I say that this whistleblower’s safety is a problem, is being in danger just as it was then.”

Berman asked the 88-year-old about Republicans’ contention that the whistleblower complaint was not based on first-hand knowledge of what occurred on the July phone call between Trump and the Ukrainian president.

“That’s an absurd statement. It doesn’t have any legal bearing, moral bearing, ethical, anything else,” Ellsberg declared.

“I had knowledge, first-hand knowledge in the White House that the president, Lyndon Johnson, was violating his oath of office by lying and sending us to a wrongful war and I was violating my oath along with him by keeping my mouth shut about that,” he recounted.

“But most of what I put out of the 7,000 top secret pages were not my firsthand knowledge. It was documentary evidence. And that wasn’t the last word either. But it was good information. It had nothing to do with first-hand knowledge,” he added, referring to the information he leaked in the hopes of precipitating an end to the Vietnam War.

“The point is that there has to be an examination of that evidence as to whether the president has, in fact, violated their oath of office,” he said, adding that Trump is not the only one who is “impeachable.”

“And I would say that every person who listened in on that phone call and heard the president committing a crime with 12 persons listening in and every one of them who kept their mouths shut about that, who ordered that information locked up, was violating their oath of office and is impeachable as a result,” Ellsberg said.

Twitter users fired back at Ellsberg for his defense of the whistleblower.

 

Frieda Powers

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