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Republican counsel Steve Castor listens to Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) during a hearing with witness U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch before the House Intelligence Committee in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill on November 15, 2019 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Joshua Roberts—Pool/Getty Images)

The Tale of the Whistleblower

Why is it so important for people like Jim Jordan to be able to talk to the whistleblower to discover what happened?

Christopher Brauchli

Clear as a whistle
— John Byrom, Epistle to Lloyd

After listening to Jim Jordan’s reasoned analysis of the impeachment process at the conclusion of the first day of the impeachment hearing before the House Intelligence Committee, a number of readers have written asking me to explain why, at this stage of the proceedings, it is so important for people like Jim Jordan to be able to talk to the whistleblower to discover what happened? To help readers understand the process, a simple made-up example may provide an answer.

A is the only witness to a terrible car accident that, unknown to A, was being driven by B who, it turns out is drunk. The car being driven by B was heading the wrong way on a four-lane highway at the time it crashed into another car. A promptly called the police to report the accident. Thereafter, he left the scene and went home. The next day A went to Europe on a 6-month trip.

As a result of A’s call to the police, several things happened. The police showed up at the site of the accident. Since B’s car was headed the wrong way on a four-lane highway when it crashed into the other car, the police could easily figure out who was to blame for the accident. B was given a blood alcohol test that showed his blood alcohol level to be at such a high level that he was charged with, among other things, drunk driving. As a result of their investigation, the police issued B several tickets.

B was convinced he was innocent of all the charges, and hired a lawyer named Jim Jordan to represent him. Jim had a master’s degree in education from Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, and obtained his JD degree from Capital University Law School in 2001. Jim was happy to take the case because not only would he earn a good fee, but he knew he could, as they say in the trade, “beat the rap. ”

The first thing he did after he was hired was to go to the police department to find out who it was that first reported the crash, a person known in common parlance as the “whistleblower.” Jim had visited the scene of the accident and concluded that if A had been standing in one specific spot near the highway, he could not possibly have seen the accident and his call to the police department would be discredited.

Accordingly, he caused a subpoena to be issued to A commanding him to appear at the trial. Jim wanted to be able to cross examine A because he hoped that he might be able cast doubt on A’s credibility and, as a result, cast doubt in the minds of the jurors as to whether or not B was guilty. Jim’s tactic depended, of course, on the jurors overlooking the fact that B had been convicted of drunk driving, and his car was driving the wrong way on a four-lane highway. To impeach A, Jim would have to get A to come home from Europe which, of course, A refused to do.

When arguing to the court that his client’s trial could not begin without A’s presence, Jim made a number of creative arguments in support of his position. He said: “We will never get the chance to see the whistleblower raise his right hand, swear to tell the truth and nothing but the truth and -we’ll never get that chance. This Anonymous so-called whistleblower with no first-hand knowledge (who is the reason we’re all sitting here today)-we’ll never get a chance to question that individual.” Of course Jim was counting on the fact that if A was present, he could prove that from where A was standing, A could not possibly have seen the accident and therefore would lack first-hand knowledge. Jim went on saying: “We’ll never get a chance to question that individual. We’ll not get to check out his credibility, his motivations, his bias.”

Jim’s argument to the court as to why the proceedings should be put on hold until A could be compelled to testify were excellently presented by Jim. Nonetheless, the judge pointed out to Jim one thing he had apparently overlooked. B’s client was in the wrong lane, heading the wrong way and was drunk. The trial was permitted to continue without A and B was convicted on all counts and sentenced to a long prison term.

In 2007 Jim Jordan ran for Congress and was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Ohio’s 4th district where he continues to serve today. On November 8, 2019, Jim was appointed to the House Intelligence Committee that is conducting the public impeachment hearings, by Devin Nunes, the ranking member of the Committee. Nunes knew that Jim would be able to convince the country that without the whistleblower’s presence, the hearings being conducted were nothing more than a very bad joke. B is watching the hearings from his prison cell, scratching his head. B is not the only head scratching citizen watching the hearings.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Christopher Brauchli

Christopher Brauchli

Christopher Brauchli is a Common Dreams columnist and lawyer known nationally for his work. He is a graduate of Harvard University and the University of Colorado School of Law where he served on the Board of Editors of the Rocky Mountain Law Review. For political commentary see his web page at humanraceandothersports.com.

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