Trump Retweets Post That Publicized Alleged Ukraine Whistleblower, Critics Say President Violated Retaliation Laws

President Donald Trump retweeted a controversial post mentioning the alleged name of the Ukraine whistleblower. That retweet prompted allegations he directly broke federal regulations that safeguard such figures from retaliation.

The president's personal Twitter account retweeted a post from his 2020 campaign's official "War Room" account Thursday evening that declared: "It's pretty simple. The CIA 'whistleblower' is not a real whistleblower!" and included a link to a Washington Examiner report that named the alleged whistleblower in the headline. Trump's move reportedly prompted concern from his advisers, including Ivanka Trump.

Then, according to The Washington Post, the president retweeted a post that publicized the alleged whistleblower on Friday night. By Saturday morning, the retweet disappeared from his Twitter timeline. It was initially believed that either the president or someone with access to his Twitter account un-retweeted the post which violated U.S. Office of Special Counsel guidelines that protects federal employees from whistleblower retaliation.

However, other media outlets, including The Washington Post, CNN and The Associated Press reported that while the retweet seemed to have disappeared on the Twitter feed, it was still visible to some users. Twitter acknowledged it was due to a software bug. "Due to an outage with one of our systems, tweets on account profiles were visible to some, but not others. We're still working on fixing this and apologize for any confusion," the company said, as reported in CNN.

Earlier Saturday, the president's retweet of the post prompted reaction on social media. "Trump, just before midnight on the Friday after Christmas, retweeted a tweet that singled out the alleged whistleblower by name to his nearly 68 million followers," remarked CNN's Manu Raju Friday on Twitter Saturday morning. Brian Stelter, host of CNN's Reliable Sources program, replied to Raju's tweet: "And this retweet is no longer on Trump's timeline, indicating that Trump or someone with access to his account un-RTed it overnight."

Newsweek has not verified the identity of the whistleblower. The publication has also reached out to the White House Saturday morning for comment about the initial retweet.

Federal attorneys and government watchdogs immediately described Trump's tweet as a direct violation of federal whistleblower protections and tech leaders said it violated Twitter's promise earlier this year to "flag abusive tweets by world leaders." And legal analysts are questioning why Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, who heads the Whistleblower Protection Caucus, has not publicly rebuked the president for the move.

"Where is Chuck Grassley?" asked Supreme Court attorney Neal Katyal on Twitter, prompting a response from Mark S. Zaid, who is the Ukraine whistleblower's attorney.

"Darn good question. Protecting #whistleblowersis supposed involve rule of law & bi-partisanship. Sen@ChuckGrassley has been #WBer champion for years. Why is he so silent now when integrity of institution is under attack?"

Zaid also called out another member of the bipartisan whistleblower caucus, Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn, for her failure to push back against the president's egregious violations this week.

"Senator @MarshaBlackburn should resign from Senate #Whistleblower Caucus. Her comments are completely contrary to everything that Caucus is supposed to stand for and protect. #ProtectTheWhistleblower," Zaid tweeted Thursday.

The whistleblower in question filed an anonymous complaint in August alleging Trump demanded Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky publicly announce an investigation into the Bidens, his political rival, in exchange for military aid. The alleged move violates U.S. laws which prevent politicians from seeking foreign help in U.S. elections.

Former federal prosecutor Christopher C. Alberto responded: "Trump's participation in publicizing the name of the whistleblower is a direct attack on our constitutional republic & national security. He also violated the WB protection act & his oath of office. His central goal is to intimidate others from speaking up."

A Twitter spokesperson told several news outlets Friday that tweets including the alleged name of the whistleblower, as well as retweets, are not in violation of the social media platform's terms of service. This comes just a few months after the company said it would start flagging abusive tweets from government officials and world leaders. Twitter's own auto-complete tool in searches began filling in the name of the alleged whistleblower after the Trump campaign tweet.

The Daily Beast reported that a number of top administration advisers warned Trump against retweeting the post that named the alleged whistleblower.

"Trump publicized the name of the alleged whistleblower despite pleas from Ivanka Trump and the White House counsel. Call your Senators at (202) 224-3121 and tell them why they should vote to #RemoveTrump," the Democratic Coalition urged Twitter followers Friday.

For months, Trump and other top administration officials have attempted to discredit the Ukraine whistleblower, and called for the individual to be named.

Updated December 29, 7:41 AM ET, to correct the headline and clarify that the president's retweet remained visible to some users, according to Twitter about a technical glitch in its software.

trump delete retweet ukraine whistleblower
President Donald Trump retweeted, and later deleted, a controversial post Thursday which revealed the alleged name of the Ukraine whistleblower, prompting allegations he directly broke federal regulations which safeguard such figures from retaliation. DREW ANGERER / Staff/Getty Images
Trump Retweets Post That Publicized Alleged Ukraine Whistleblower, Critics Say President Violated Retaliation Laws | News