For weeks, Donald Trump has known the name of the alleged whistleblower who filed the anonymous complaint in August and sparked the impeachment inquiry bedeviling this administration.
Since learning the name, the president has gossiped on numerous occasions about this individual’s biography and alleged political biases with confidants, friends, lawyers, administration officials, family, and cable-news personalities, according to four people with knowledge of the conversations.
He’s spoken to so many people behind the scenes about the whistleblower, many of those close to the president are genuinely surprised he hasn’t already tweeted, retweeted, or publicly uttered the name, given his colossal public fury at the still-unnamed individual and his lawyer.
Those in Trump’s inner circle—including White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and the president’s daughter and senior White House aide Ivanka Trump—have specifically told the president when asked that it would be unwise for him to publicly blurt out the name at this point, the sources say.
Even Fox News star Sean Hannity, a regular Trump confidant who wages almost nightly war against the allegedly anti-Trump “deep state” on his Fox News and radio broadcasts, hasn’t pushed the president hard to out the alleged whistleblower, even when the two have gossiped about this individual. When asked about conversations with President Trump regarding the whistleblower’s identity, the Fox News host said in an email to The Daily Beast, “I never reveal my sources,” before quickly pivoting to complaining about the president’s enemies such as “#QuidProQuoJoe” Biden and his son, “‘no experience’ make millions Hunter” Biden.
Still, few expect the dam to hold for long, in spite of federal protections covering government whistleblowers.
“It is not a matter of if but when he will say it,” said one senior administration official who has discussed the name with Trump and also made a point of advising him against saying or posting to Twitter the name—for now. “It’s my sense he is waiting for more cover from others before he does,” the senior official added.
White House spokespeople did not provide comment for this report as of publication time.
However, this being President Trump, he’s not getting this name via any official or top-secret channels, as far as his close associates can tell. He’s getting it through casual conversation and conservative media, and has, two knowledgeable sources say, read the name via print-outs of articles on websites such as Breitbart and RealClearPolitics. He’s heard the name on his TV, since this alleged whistleblower has been widely identified on right-wing social media and in the conservative press, such as multiple times on two of Trump’s favorite channels, One America News Network and Fox News.
In moments of annoyance, the president has at times simply referred to the alleged whistleblower as “that guy,” according to a source present for Trump’s private remark.
Fox News even has a reported ban in place on its employees uttering the name on-air. And according to a source with knowledge of the situation, Fox producers have also gone out of their way to individually tell guests ahead of their interviews to refrain from mentioning the name of the alleged whistleblower, stressing to certain guests the current Fox policy. (This effort has not been entirely successful.)
For weeks, prominent Republicans have attempted to out the whistleblower, including during high-stakes Hill depositions in the impeachment probe. Top Trump allies, like Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), have called on the media to publish the name. And, to much media attention, the president’s eldest son Donald Trump Jr. posted the name to his Twitter account last week.
Much of the name-related freakout in Trumpworld, conservative media, and social media came shortly after The New York Times printed a report in September that included—against the expressed desires of the whistleblower’s legal team—details of the complaint author’s identity, though did so without explicitly naming the individual. Multiple sources in conservative media that have named the person say that they would not have been able to “out” the alleged whistleblower without clues left in that Times article.
The Daily Beast has not confirmed the identity of the whistleblower. Democratic leaders have said they intend to hold a House vote on impeaching Trump before the year is out. It is widely believed that the president is on track to be acquitted subsequently by the Republican-controlled Senate.
“I think the president has probably been warned that you’re not supposed to name the [alleged] whistleblower,” said Ed Rollins, a veteran Republican strategist who leads the pro-Trump group Great America PAC. “But the name’s been out there… Whether you can fire him or not, I don’t know, but you certainly could identify him, and criticize him, and House Republicans should demand that he testify. He’s the one who started this thing… I’d certainly make his life miserable.”
Rollins added, “I have no reservations about whether the president should name him or demand that he testify against him.”
—with additional reporting by Andrew Kirell