HomeLeading Whistleblower Attorneys Weigh in on Ukraine Whistleblower Complaint

Leading Whistleblower Attorneys Weigh in on Ukraine Whistleblower Complaint

Published On: October 9th, 2019Categories: In the News, News, Whistleblower Protection

Over the past couple of weeks, leading whistleblower attorneys from Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto provided expert analysis on the treatment of the White House whistleblower and current whistleblower protections for Intelligence Community whistleblowers.

Read, watch, and listen to the various articles, videos, and radio shows featuring our attorneys, who weigh in on the latest whistleblower news.


Below is an excerpt from an opinion piece done by Stephen Kohn, Michael Kohn, and David Colapinto for The Hill.

What the Linda Tripp case can teach us about whistleblowers and impeachment. The Hill. October 1, 2019.

“Attacking the messenger and making threats is the distraction used to deflate whistleblower disclosures. That is why it is so important to protect the identity of a whistleblower. The U.S. Supreme Court has long recognized that anonymous speech is protected under the First Amendment.”


Below are excerpts of some of the interviews featuring KKC Partner David K. Colapinto:

“Whistleblowing is Really in our DNA”: A History of Reporting Wrongdoing. National Public Radio. September 25, 2019.

“Whistleblowing is a career-limiting phenomenon in the federal workforce,” he says. “That’s why a lot of people don’t do it,” said whistleblower attorney David Colapinto.

Colapinto, a founder of the National Whistleblower Center, says the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act allows workers to report wrongdoing they see in their agencies directly to members of Congress. But there are different rules for people who work in national security.

“If you work in the intelligence community you must bring your concern to the inspector general before you can go to Congress,” he says, whereas an employee at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, for example, “can go right to [their] member of Congress or the committee that has jurisdiction over housing” and report their concerns. “Those are two major differences, as we’re seeing play out,” Colapinto says.

Listen here: ‘Whistleblowing Is Really In Our DNA’: A History Of Reporting Wrongdoing

What the New York Times Outing a Whistleblower Tells Us About Trump’s Smear Campaign. Vice. September 27, 2019.

The central question, said David K. Colapinto, a longtime whistleblower lawyer and co-founder of the National Whistleblower Center, is why personal details leaked to the newspaper in the first place.

“I am more concerned about people in the government disclosing that information to potentially harass the whistleblower,” Colapinto said. “It’s obvious, given the president’s other comments, given what was said earlier this week, that that’s going to be the focus of the president’s defense: to shoot the messenger.”

Unpatriotic? Whistleblowers are “as American as apple pie” Los Angeles Times. October 8, 2019.

“To truly protect whistleblowers, there’s a lot of unfinished business,” said David Colapinto, general counsel for the National Whistleblower Center.

The Trump Whistleblower Scandal is Proving Edward Snowden Right. HuffPost. September 24, 2019.

The choices for intelligence community whistleblowers are inherently limited. “You can stay silent, risk your career, or risk worse, like prison,” said David Colapinto, a whistleblower lawyer at Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto. “None of those choices are good.”

Donald Trump’s smears designed to silence would-be whistleblowers, experts warn. The Guardian. September 26, 2019.

David Colapinto, a prominent whistleblower lawyer who co-founded the National Whistleblower Center, said that these internal provisions and the lack of any external safeguards were a strong disincentive to anyone thinking about coming forward. “The system inherently has a chilling effect because it requires potential whistleblowers to identify themselves to their seniors and that can be career suicide.”

“This treatment is a completely inappropriate way to deal with a whistleblower,” he said. “It will lead to demoralization, a sense of hopelessness that you cannot blow the whistle on people who are too powerful – and it will set a terrible precedent that can only encourage further misconduct from those in high office.”

Trump’s Rhetoric will have a chilling effect on whistleblowing, legal experts say. Washington Post. September 20, 2019.

But in this case, acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire has refused to share details about Trump’s alleged transgression with lawmakers. Colapinto called this move unprecedented and said it could further erode trust in the intelligence community.

“The system of whistleblowing will fail in the intelligence community if that complaint is not transmitted to Congress,” he said. “To have a whistleblower complaint verified as credible and urgent and not end up where it’s supposed to go would be the worst possible outcome. There would be a crisis in confidence in the intelligence community.”


David Colapinto on Whistleblower Laws and the Intelligence Community. C-Span. September 24, 2019.

David Colapinto appeared on C-Span’s Washington Journal to address the current White House whistleblower situation and the laws that apply to Intelligence Community whistleblowers.

The Problem with the Whistle-blower System. The Atlantic. September 21, 2019.

“It’s one of the biggest frustrations—that the people you’re blowing the whistle on have so much say over this,” David Colapinto, a founder and general counsel of the National Whistleblower Center, told me.

If there is a case of reprisals against the whistle-blower by superiors, meanwhile, then the case is decided by the DNI. Such cases are full of legal and administrative hurdles and can take years to play out. “So the very agency that is being accused of the misconduct sits as the prosecutor, judge, and jury, so to speak, on the whistle-blower’s retaliation case,” Colapinto said.

The whistleblowing process, explained. CNN. September 27, 2019.

Whistleblowers come forward out of a sense of duty, David Colapinto, co-founder and general counsel of the National Whistleblower Center, told CNN.

“It takes a lot for somebody like this whistleblower, who has presumably worked in the intelligence community for some time, to decide to take the risk of what might happen to his or her career to report concerns of this magnitude,” Colapinto said.

Who is responsible for enforcing the US whistleblower law? The president. PRI. September 27, 2019.

“There are two phases to a whistleblower case,” Colapinto said. “We’re in the first phase, where the whistleblower has submitted his or her concerns and try to get them to the appropriate authorities. They’ve now gotten to Congress. That’s phase one. Phase two is if the whistleblower is identified and suffers retaliation by his or her agency, then phase two would kick in and they would have to file a complaint through the administrative process, depending upon where you work and who you report to.”

As Trump lashes out at whistleblower, analysts fear law offers meager protection. Washington Post. September 30, 2019.

“So, what kind of protection is this whistleblower going to get through this system?” said David K. Colapinto, the co-founder of the National Whistleblower Center. “But you got to understand that prior to 2014, there was nothing on the books. This is considered an advancement.”

If whistleblowers are fired, demoted or otherwise punished, they can now at least pursue internal remedies, though they cannot go to court, Colapinto said. Such cases, he said, “usually end poorly for the whistleblower.”

“From our point of view, protecting the whistleblower is of paramount importance, and this case is going to be a real test of these laws to see if they can make them work,” Colapinto said.


Protecting the White House Whistleblower. Cheddar. September 30, 2019.

David Colapinto appeared on Cheddar Politics to discuss federal whistleblower protections and the state of the current CIA whistleblower who filed a complaint against the President.

Why Whistleblowers are as American as the Declaration of Independence. MTV. September 30, 2019.

“This is going to become a very hot political issue in the United States, and people are going to be taking sides,” Colapinto told MTV News. “People are going to be charged up and there is a tactic that is often used in political fights of this nature: Shoot the messenger to distract, go on a smear campaign, those types of things to discredit a whistleblower, which has nothing to do with the merits of the case.”

David Colapinto spoke to NPR about what makes someone a whistleblower, procedures to follow as a federal whistleblower, and the current White House whistleblower.

Fact check: Were whistleblower rules changed before Ukraine complaint? NBC News. September 30, 2019.

David Colapinto, an attorney with Kohn, Kohn, and Colapinto who represents whistleblowers, and who is a co-founder of the National Whistleblower Center, said whistleblowers need only have a “reasonable belief” that wrongdoing occurred. The claim that the Ukraine whistleblower hadn’t followed procedure or somehow shouldn’t be protected as a whistleblower was “ridiculous,” he said.

Whistleblower protections, explained. PBS News Hour. October 2, 2019.

Did Trump’s whistleblower follow protocol?

Short answer: Yes. In recent weeks Trump and his supporters have accused the author of the complaint of being a “deep-state operative.” However, both the inspector general for the intelligence community and the acting director of national intelligence have said the individual followed legal procedure. Contrary to Trump’s claims, the law does not require a whistleblower to present first-hand information, it only requires a reasonable belief of a violation, said David Colapinto, co-founder and general counsel for the National Whistleblower Center, an advocacy group.

Trump quiere saber quién hizo la denuncia en su contra por la trama ucraniana. La ley se lo impide. Telemundo. September 30, 2019.

En la actualidad, las empresas privadas que se cotizan en la Bolsa han establecido procesos para tramitar denuncias, con el objetivo de proteger del fraude a inversionistas y al público, según David Colapinto, abogado y fundador del “National Whistleblower Center”.


Below are excerpts of some of the interviews featuring KKC Partner Stephen Kohn:

‘Horrific and chilling’: Whistleblower Advocates complain as Trump tries to identify source of Ukraine complaint. USA Today. September 30, 2019.

Stephen M. Kohn, the center’s board chairman and author of the “Whistleblower Handbook,” said the Continental Congress passed the first whistleblower law in 1778 that declared “anyone in the service of the U.S. with knowledge of serious wrongdoing has a duty to deliver that information to Congress as soon as possible.”

Up First: Whistleblower Complaint, Student Climate Protests, Catastrophic Texas Flooding. NPR. September 20, 2019.

Stephen Kohn spoke to NPR about Intelligence Community whistleblowers and the risks they take when reporting wrongdoing.

Intelligence Community Whistleblower Deserves Protection. National Whistleblower Center. September 30, 2019.

This moment is a test of whether today’s members of Congress are willing to uphold the Nation’s founding principles. In the first whistleblower law, passed in 1778, the Continental Congress declared that anyone in the service of the U.S. with knowledge of serious wrongdoing has a duty to deliver that information to Congress as soon as possible. This whistleblower followed the law and upheld his patriotic duty. Now it is time for Congress to honor this individual’s bravery, reaffirm its own laws prohibiting reprisals and guarantee the whistleblower’s right to remain anonymous. If it fails do so, it will be a disastrous setback for the Nation’s whistleblowing system.

GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley Defends Ukraine Whistleblower Amid Trump Attacks. HuffPost. October 1, 2019.

Stephen Kohn, a top whistleblower attorney, called Republican complaints about secondhand information in the Ukraine complaint “completely distorted.”

“For example, someone overhears a conversation about committing a murder or robbery. You can report that conversation, even though you never witnessed the crime. That conversation is important evidence inasmuch as it can provide law enforcement with the ‘tip’ needed to investigate or solve a crime. This happens every day,” Kohn said.




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