Impeachment Saga Puts New Spotlight on Federal Whistleblower Complaints 2019-10-01

October 01, 2019

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Last week, Joseph Maguire, Acting Director of National Intelligence, testified before Congress, as part of the impeachment inquiry launched by Democrats against President Trump.

"I want to stress that I believe the whistleblower and the Inspector General, have acted in good faith throughout," Maguire said. "I have every reason to believe, that they have done everything by the book, and followed the law."

The inquiry revolves around the Ukraine controversy, in which President Trump asked the Ukranian government to investigate political rival Joe Biden’s son.

But at the center of this saga is a whistleblower report that the Trump Administration allegedly attempted to suppress. On Monday, the president told reporters his administration is trying to find out more about the whistleblower, saying his administration was "trying to find out about a whistleblower." Last week, Trump implicitly threatened the whistleblower, in leaked audio published by The L.A. Times, calling them a "spy."

"The spies and treason — we used to handle it a little differently than we do now," Trump said.

This public display by the President and others has brought about questions of the treatment of whistleblowers in both the public and private sectors. In many cases, whistleblowers face retaliation for speaking up about potential misconduct.

Tom Mueller, journalist and author of the forthcoming book, Crisis of Conscience: Whistleblowing in an Age of Fraud, joins The Takeaway to discuss the risks whistleblowers face when speaking out about state and corporate wrongdoings.

But sometimes speaking up and blowing the whistle can save lives — and may be worth the risks. For two other Takeaway guests, moral and ethical dilemmas are not just abstract concepts. These are daily battles they have been going through since they first blew the whistle in their respective departments.

Robert MacLean is a twice-fired TSA Federal Air Marshal, who blew the whistle on practices by the Department of Homeland Security back in 2003. MacLean found out the DHS would be cutting Federal Air Marshal personnel on long-distance flights that were at risk of terrorist attacks.

Brandon Coleman is a former counselor with the Department of Veterans Affairs, who blew the whistle in 2015 about the lack of treatment for suicidal veterans within the VA. Coleman documented the VA’s neglect of suicidal veterans in Phoenix, who were often not being given necessary treatment. As a veteran himself, Coleman also found out VA staff were inappropriately accessing his own records.