CORRECTION: A previous version of this editorial incorrectly identified the state in which former Sen. Jeff Flake served. He was a senator in Arizona, not Utah. This story was updated Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019, at 6:30 p.m. with more information.
As President Donald Trump and his allies attack the whistle-blower who prompted the House's impeachment inquiry, the still-unidentified person gained a new and powerful ally Tuesday: Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley.
"This person appears to have followed the whistle-blower protection laws and ought to be heard out and protected. We should always work to respect whistle-blowers," Grassley said.
He went further, addressing a GOP talking point that the whistle-blower's information was second-hand and hearsay, Grassley said: "Complaints based on second-hand information should not be rejected out of hand, but they do require additional legwork to get at the facts and evaluate the claim's credibility."
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, pushed back against a Trump suggestion that the whistle-blower's sources are spies.
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, last week called the scandal "deeply troubling."
On Monday in an op-ed for The Washington Post, former Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake called on other Republicans to "save your souls" and oppose Trump in 2020. He added that with "what we now know, the president's actions warrant impeachment."
The whistle-blower's complaint says Trump abused the power of his office for personal gain when speaking to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in July. It further states that administration sources covered up for the Trump.
But Grassley, Collins, Romney and Flake are on a lonely hill.
For the most part, Republican talking points still have most Republicans mounting attacks on the whistle-blower as a secondhand source with no direct knowledge of the inner workings of the administration.
"He's not really a whistle-blower, so it's really more hearsay," Sen. Tim Scott, R-South Carolina, said Friday.
Here's the funny thing. Trump has acknowledged that he asked this of Zelensky. Trump called it "a perfect" call. He just denies that there any "quid pro quo."
Trump's personal attorney and new fixer, Rudy Giuliani, has acknowledged his months long work in Ukraine and that he asked this of Zelensky. "Of course I did," Giuliani told CNN.
The White House has released a summary transcript and readout of the phone conversation that shows Trump asked this of Zelensky.
"I would like you to do us a favor though ... ," said Trump right after Zelensky spoke of a desire for more military equipment, according to the transcript. Trump then went on to tell Zelensky to work with Giuliani and U.S. Attorney Gen. Bill Barr on those matters. To buy the military equipment to fight off Russia, Ukraine needed the nearly $400 million that our Congress approved. But Trump had ordered a hold on it.
The favor Trump said he wanted from the Ukrainians was that they investigate Joe Biden, his son Hunter and the Ukrainian gas company where Hunter worked. And, reminding the Ukrainian president of how good the U.S. has been to Ukraine, Trump also said he wanted the Ukrainians to "find" the mythical missing server that conspiracy theorists claim holds Hillary Clinton's "missing" emails.
We've now learned that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was among the administration officials who listened in on the July 25 phone call. Pompeo, asked a what-did-you-know-about-it question from CNN, said: "So, you just gave me a report about a I.C. whistle-blower complaint, none of which I've seen. "
We've also now learned that Trump pressed Australia's prime minister in another recent phone call to help Barr investigate the origins of the Mueller probe. And to that point, Barr has met with governments in Ukraine, Italy, Australia, and the United Kingdom.
What part of NOT hearsay do the Republicans mouthing these talking points not get? The N, the O or the T?
What we're talking about here is a blatant attempt by the president to get a foreign country (countries) to take action that would influence the 2020 presidential election in Trump's favor, and — in Trump's view, at least — get the monkey off Russia's back for its interference in the 2016 election.
Of course there is, and will be, more. We are talking about the Trump administration, aren't we?
But this time, Trump isn't just a reality show star turned candidate. This time he's the president of the United States. And the people covering up for him are U.S. officials who we pay to work for us and the Constitution — not this corrupt president.
Ukrainegate involves multiple government agencies, including William Barr's Justice Department, Mike Pompeo's State Department, and Mick Mulvaney's Office of Management and Budget and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
It was worrying enough to spur a government employee to file a complaint in mid-August, and it's worrying enough now that Trump's first homeland security adviser, Tom Bossert, has come forward to say he is "deeply disturbed" by the call. Bossert said Sunday that Trump was repeatedly warned by his own staff that the Ukraine conspiracy theory (Ukraine, not Russia, interfered with our 2016 election) was "completely debunked."
Yet here we are — with a president who just two months ago asked Ukraine to investigate his Democratic rivals and his own government. A president who has tasked at least one henchman to do the same in other countries.
Hearsay? That's all the GOP talking points can say. Because Republicans clearly don't want to call their president an unfit, unethical liar.