For the first time since the Ukraine scandal erupted, President Trump has retweeted the name of the alleged whistleblower and directly displayed it to his 68 million followers.
The late-night retweet just before midnight on Friday went largely unnoticed at first, but was still displayed in the president's Twitter feed as of Saturday evening, by which point it had been retweeted more than 13,000 times.
The retweet was of a tweet from a user called “Surfermom77,” an account purportedly belonging to a woman named Sophia in California that seems unusually active in churning out pro-Trump posts and memes.
The tweet shared by Trump attacked House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff and, without any evidence, identified the whistleblower as a man whose name has been circulated by conservative media and far-right figures in recent weeks.
The Daily Beast is declining to publish the name and has not independently verified the identity of the whistleblower.
Trump’s retweet comes just two days after he retweeted a post from an account associated with his re-election campaign that linked to an article including the unsubstantiated name of the whistleblower.
As The Daily Beast previously reported, Trump had talked about the name of the alleged whistleblower with friends, media figures, and senior administration officials in recent months, and asked if they thought it was appropriate for him to publicly announce or tweet the name. But administration officials and those within his inner circle—including his own daughter, Ivanka Trump—cautioned him against posting the name of the alleged whistleblower.
Lawyers representing the whistleblower previously told The Wall Street Journal their client had received multiple death threats, even as the president and his allies continued to vilify the whistleblower.
Schiff said last month that part of the reason Democrats did not call the whistleblower to testify as part of the impeachment inquiry was because the president had called the person a “spy” and hinted that his actions were deserving of the “death penalty.”
“The president said the whistleblower and others should be treated as a traitor and a spy and we ought to use the penalty and that’s the death penalty,” Schiff said on Meet the Press at the time.
After the whistleblower’s complaint went public in late September, The New York Times reported that Trump told a small audience at a private event that whoever gave the whistleblower “information” that was used against him was “close to a spy.”
“You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart with spies and treason, right? We used to handle it a little differently than we do now.”