Facts Matter: Whistleblower has protections, but identity doesn't. Also, Trump knew Sondland.

  • President Donald Trump holds handwritten notes Wednesday as he speaks to the media about that day's testimony of U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland. Trump falsely said he did not know Sondland well.

    President Donald Trump holds handwritten notes Wednesday as he speaks to the media about that day's testimony of U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland. Trump falsely said he did not know Sondland well. Associated Press

Updated 11/23/2019 7:17 PM

The identity of a whistleblower whose actions helped form the basis for the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump has been kept secret despite calls to release the name.

Throughout the congressional impeachment hearings, Rep. Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has protected the whistleblower's identity.


"The whistleblower has the right, a statutory right, to anonymity," Schiff said during the Nov. 19 session. "These proceedings will not be used to out the whistleblower."

But there is no statute that guarantees that right, according to The Washington Post.

The Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act of 1998, or ICWPA, and related statutes protect the informant from work-related retaliation, the Post said. Whistleblowers in the intelligence community cannot be demoted, fired or reassigned. Their pay cannot be cut, security clearances can't be changed, and they can't be required to get a psychiatric examination. But anonymity is not guaranteed.

"Nothing in the ICWPA expressly protects the anonymity of a complainant, or provides sanctions for someone who discloses it," University of Texas School of Law professor Stephen Vladeck told the Post.

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However, the identity is often not released in order to keep a whistleblower from retribution.

"(The statute) implies anonymity as a shield from other forms of workplace retaliation," national security analyst Irvin McCullough told the Post.

Trump mischaracterizes Sondland relationship

President Trump's claim he didn't know Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union, is not credible, according to The Associated Press.

"I don't know him very well," Trump recently told reporters. "I have not spoken to him much. This is not a man I know well."

But testimony during the impeachment inquiry has shown Sondland was in frequent contact with the president, the AP said.

Tim Morrison, a former director for the National Security Council, told the House Intelligence Committee that Sondland had spoken with Trump five times from July 15 to Sept. 11, the time period in which U.S. aid to Ukraine was first withheld and later released.


"(Sondland) was discussing these matters with the president," Morrison told the committee.

During his testimony on Wednesday, Sondland, in a revised statement, admitted he called the president on July 26, a day after Trump, in a call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, asked or a favor.

On Oct. 8, Trump tweeted Sondland was a "really good man and great American," the AP said. A month later Trump said he "hardly" knew the ambassador.

Hillary not eyeing run for presidency

Contrary to statements in an email from a Republican official, Hillary Clinton is not planning a run for president in 2020, according to PolitiFact.com.

"Have you seen the recent news about Hillary?" stated an email last month from Chairwoman of the Missouri Republican Party Kay Hoflander. "All signs seem to point to Hillary laying the groundwork to run for president again ... GOOD! We welcome her to lose again next November, especially here in Missouri."

But the signs aren't there, PolitiFact said. Clinton has not registered as a candidate with the Federal Election Commission.

Although there is still time, with the election less than a year away. In 2008 she filed her statement of candidacy 21 months before the election, and in 2016 it was 19 months.

She also would not appear on the Alabama primary ballot because that deadline has passed.

When asked, Clinton has said she is not planning a candidacy, PolitiFact said.

"I'm not running," she told a New York television audience in March. And in October 2017, she told BBC Radio 4, "No, I'm not going to run again."

University of Washington law professor Stuart Streichler told PolitiFact that it would be "highly unusual" for a candidate to enter the race this close to the election.

"A lot of the staff, the talent that you would want to get as staff, are already working for other candidates," Streichler said.

The email about Clinton running was likely a fundraising tactic, PolitiFact said. The idea is put the information out to get a reaction from Republican supporters and hopefully increase donations.

Will Smith not rushed to hospital

A YouTube channel's claim that actor Will Smith had a life-threatening disease was merely clickbait, designed to attract users, according to Snopes.com.

"Prayers Up! Will Smith Diagnosed With Life Threatening Disease And Rushed To Hospital," headlined a video earlier this month on the Stars News YouTube channel. The posting included photos of Smith and a voice-over narration of an article from the entertainment website AmoMama.

Smith actually had gone to the hospital for a routine, scheduled colonoscopy in August, Snopes said. Smith posted snippets on his Instagram account and he uploaded a 17-minute video of the procedure to Facebook.

During the colonoscopy, physicians found and removed a polyp without complication, Dr. Ala Stanford tells Smith in the video, Snopes reported.

• Bob Oswald is a veteran Chicago-area journalist and former news editor of the Elgin Courier-News. Contact him at boboswald33@gmail.com.

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