There's A Guide For Trump Whistleblowers

by Seth Millstein
Kris Connor/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

It was reported in January that the White House had ordered several agencies to halt external communications on social media or with the press. In response to this, two Democratic lawmakers have created a guide for government employees who "wish to break the Administration’s communications blackout on federal agencies." Or, to put it differently, they've made a guide for whistleblowers in the Trump administration.

“We believe the American people have a right to know how their government works," reads the document, which was prepared by Reps. Ted Lieu and Don Beyer of California and Virginia, respectively. "The Trump administration has strapped a muzzle on federal agencies and attacked legitimate whistleblowers. Should federal employees wish to break that silence, we want this to be a resource for the safe and responsible disclosure of information."

The document is rather brief, and it outlines the risks that whistleblowers face and, alternatively, the protections they enjoy under federal law. Under the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, employers aren't allowed to retaliate against employees who reveal illegal acts, gross mismanagement, abuses of authority or several other types of wrongdoing; because this applies to public as well as private employers, those who work for the federal government are covered under these protections. However, the guide notes that classified documents aren't covered under this law.

Likewise, the guide notes that despite these protections, government employees who blow the whistle may nevertheless find themselves "on the losing side of First Amendment retaliation suit" if the government decides to sue. To mitigate the risk of this, Lieu and Beyer encourages potential whistle blowers to speak out as private citizens on their own time, as opposed to doing so in their capacity as government employees.

Insofar as anonymous communications go, the two lawmakers suggest that whistle blowers use apps that use "end-to-end encryption," such as WhatsApp, Signal and Telegram. They also note that sending snail mail to the press without a return address is a secure form of communication, and that the government would require a warrant to intercept any such mail. Lastly, the document links to more detailed information about whistleblower protections, courtesy of the Department of Labor.

What's most significant here isn't the information the congressmen are publishing — all of this is already a matter of public record — but the mere fact that they're publishing it. Ever since Trump took office, the federal government has been leaking like a sieve, and the flow of information to the press has so enraged the president that he recently made the nonsensical claim that, while "the leaks are absolutely real, the news [revealed by the leaks] is fake." The fact that Lieu and Beyer created this guide suggests they believe there may be more damaging information to be revealed, and if that's true, a whistleblower's protection guide is certainly in order.