This article, featuring our Irvin McCullough, was originally published here

 Trump Again Attacks Whistleblower as Lawmakers Defend His Confidentiality

Senators call for protection of the person whose complaint launched the impeachment inquiry

President Trump again lashed out at the whistleblower whose complaint is driving the House impeachment inquiry, while also pushing for his identity to be revealed.

The president’s renewed attacks came as senators of both parties called for officials to protect the whistleblower, and the inspector general for the intelligence community rebuffed comments by Trump allies casting doubt on the propriety of the whistleblower’s complaint.

In tweets Tuesday morning, Mr. Trump again defended a July 25 call with Ukraine’s president, in which he  in investigating Democratic rival Joe Biden and his son just as aid was being withheld from the country. Mr. Trump said the whistleblower, known to be a Central Intelligence Agency officer, had only secondhand information about the conversation and that he wanted to be able to interview the whistleblower and his sources.

The whistleblower said he heard of the call from multiple White House officials with direct knowledge of it, who said the president was pressuring the Ukrainian leader in order to advance his own political interests, and also that White House officials acted to conceal evidence of the president’s actions.

The president asked: “Why aren’t we entitled to interview & learn everything about the Whistleblower, and also the person who gave all of the false information to him,” in one of several tweets on the matter Tuesday morning. “This is simply about a phone conversation that could not have been nicer, warmer, or better. No pressure at all (as confirmed by Ukrainian Pres.). It is just another Democrat Hoax!”

The account of the Ukraine call provided by the whistleblower aligned closely with the content of the released by the White House last week. House Democrats have opened an impeachment inquiry focused on circumstances around the call between Mr. Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, whose country receives military and other aid from the U.S.

The whistleblower is expected to testify before the House Intelligence Committee as soon as early next week, though his attorneys and the committee continue to negotiate logistics, including a time and place.

Mr. Trump’s aggressive defense of his actions echoes his strategy during the investigation into contacts between his 2016 campaign and Russia, and his allies have been a constant presence on cable news and social media. Democrats have pushed ahead, emboldened by public-opinion polls supporting the move.

Some of the attacks against the whistleblower being lodged by the president and his allies were countered on Monday in a rare and lengthy statement from Michael Atkinson, the Trump-appointed intelligence community inspector general who last month reviewed the whistleblower complaint and found it both urgent and credible.

Mr. Atkinson said there is no requirement in federal law that a whistleblower possess first-hand knowledge of alleged misconduct and that that requirement hadn’t been changed, a claim that some Trump allies had made. He also said that he determined the whistleblower “had official and authorized access to the information and sources referenced in the complainant’s letter and classified appendix, including direct knowledge of certain alleged conduct, and that the complainant has subject matter expertise related to much of the material information provided.”

The whistleblower’s attorney and some lawmakers have accused Mr. Trump of endangering his well-being, including telling reporters Monday afternoon that “we’re trying to find out about a whistleblower” and suggesting that the whistleblower and anyone who provided to information to him were spies committing treason.

“It is deeply disturbing that the president went on national television and told the American people that he’s trying to find out the whistleblower’s identity,” Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Tuesday. He called on intelligence leaders to stand by the whistleblower and any other individuals who report illegal or unethical behavior.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa), long an advocate for whistleblower protections, also called Tuesday for protecting the man’s identity.

“This person appears to have followed the whistleblower-protection laws and ought to be heard out and protected,” he said. “We should always work to respect whistleblowers’ requests for confidentiality.”

National-security lawyers said there is little to prevent the president from learning and then revealing the whistleblower’s identity if he so chooses, in a step that could lead to more retaliatory measures. The White House would likely seek to ascertain the identity from Mr. Atkinson, though Mr. Atkinson could refuse the order at the risk of being fired by Mr. Trump, lawyers said.

“It’s hard to investigate your boss, because at any time the president could remove the inspector general,” said Irvin McCullough, a national-security analyst at the whistleblower protection group Government Accountability Project and whose father is on the legal team representing the CIA officer. But such a move would fuel further political backlash for Mr. Trump. “It would be just like firing James Comey, ” Mr. McCullough said, referring to the former Federal Bureau of Investigation director whose May 2017 firing by Mr. Trump spurred the appointment of Robert Mueller to oversee the probe into Russian election interference.