NASHVILLE — An attorney for the whistleblower whose complaint spurred the U.S. House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, is calling on U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., to step down from the Senate's Whistleblower Protection Caucus for her attack on the still-anonymous whistleblower and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who testified in House impeachment proceedings.
In a tweet on Thursday, attorney Mark Zaid, who specializes in government whistleblower cases, stated "Senator @MarshaBlackburn should resign from Senate #Whistleblower Caucus. Her comments are completely contrary to everything that Caucus is supposed to stand for and protect."
Following that in a second missive, Zaid stated "Members of Senate Whistleblower Caucus should protect #whistleblowers, not attack them," adding that both the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, as well as the Intelligence Community's Inspector General have "made it clear lawful protections exist. So why is Senator @MarshaBlackburn pretending to be bi-partisan Caucus Member given her many attacks?"
With Congress now out of session, Blackburn's office had no immediate comment.
A staunch and sometimes fiery defender of Trump, Blackburn caused an uproar on Nov. 22 when the Senate Judiciary Committee member charged in her own tweet that "Vindictive Vindman is the 'whistleblower's' handler."
Vindman, the director for European Affairs for the National Security Council, Ukraine expert and recipient of a Purple Heart for wounds received in Iraq, was a key figure in the House Intelligence Committee impeachment proceedings.
He was among White House staff listening in on the July telephone call in which Trump pressured the president of Ukraine to investigate the son of one of his chief political rivals, former Vice President Joe Biden.
Blackburn was widely criticized over the tweet at the time with the hashtag #MoscowMarsha trending.
Asked about that during a conference call in mid-December with Tennessee-based reporters, Blackburn said "comments I made about [Vindman's] testimony were things that were called in question."
She noted that The Wall Street Journal later ran a story "with some of those same questions that I had had. I think that's what we want to do is make certain as you have testimony that you receive testimony, that the testimony is accurate, that it is fair. Impeachment is a process that is reserved for the greatest of needs."
The Senate Whistleblower Protection Caucus was launched by a bipartisan group of senators in 2015 to "raise awareness of the need for adequate protections against retaliation for private sector and government employees who call attention to wrongdoing," according to a July news release announcing appointments of Blackburn and other new members to the group.
Members work to "foster bipartisan discussion on legislative issues affecting the treatment of whistleblowers and serves as a clearinghouse for current information on whistleblower developments of interest in the Senate," the release states.
The Democratic-led House has since impeached the president on two articles but has yet to send them to the GOP-led Senate for trial.
Earlier Thursday, the Law & Crime website reported on the latest criticisms of Blackburn. Zaid's tweets came after David Colapinto, another whistleblower attorney who co-founded the National Whistleblower Legal Defense & Education Fund, weighed in earlier about a Washington Post article.
The article details how in the aftermath of the Ukraine crisis, there is "a climate of mistrust and threats" with the national security establishment and the values traditionally guiding the nation's diplomacy are facing an "extraordinary trial of their own" during the Trump presidency.
The Post noted that the CIA analyst who triggered the impeachment inquiry continues to work on issues related to Russia and Ukraine but when threats against him "spike — often seemingly spurred by presidential tweets — he is driven to and from work by armed security officers."
The article also cited Blackburn's "baseless charge" regarding Vindman and the still-publicly anonymous whistleblower as "a sign of how Trump "has influenced his party's tactics and illustrated the intense pressure on Republicans to back the president."
Copalinto tweeted the article, noting that "Senator @MarshaBlackburn's notorious "Vindictive Vindman" tweet is cited in this @washingtonpost article on the climate of threats against #whistleblowers.
"Still wondering, how does that tweet square with the Senator's membership in the Senate #Whistleblower Protection Caucus?" Copalinto added.
Contact Andy Sher at email@example.com or 615-255-0550. Follow on Twitter @AndySher1.