The Trump administration and its allies claimed this week that the U.S. intelligence community changed the rules to require whistleblowers to submit claims based on first-hand information, which would discredit the Ukraine whistleblower.
The whistleblower alleged that President Donald Trump abused his power and office to convince the Ukrainian president to investigate a family member of the Biden family. Former Vice President Joe Biden is currently running to earn the Democratic Party nomination to try to unseat Trump in 2020.
NBC News published a fact-check of the alleged rule change, headlined , “Fact check: Were whistleblower rules changed before Ukraine complaint?” In it, NBC News called the Trump team’s claim “a conspiracy theory” despite evidence that the theory does have some credence.
The fact-check quoted multiple lawyers who work on behalf of whistleblower clients, all of which agreed that both firsthand and secondhand information is often used in whistleblower complaints. Although secondhand information is included in many complaints that the lawyers have handled, the NBC News fact-check indicated that lawyers in the whistleblower field take all claims into account, regardless of whether it is first-hand or second-hand information.
In trying to debunk the rule change allegation, NBC News validated that there was a faulty form to submit information.
The Federalist published  a version of the form, which was changed by the intelligence community. NBC News quoted a lawyer who said that the form on The Federalist was “poorly worded and hard to make much sense of, which could be the reason it was revised.” NBC News’s main counterpoint was that this was only one faulty form and not representative of the Ukraine whistleblower, and that the lawyers quoted in the fact-check reinforced that narrative.
As a result, NBC News validated that there was at least one faulty form to submit information, which was later revised due to its ambiguity.
Instead of debunking the “conspiracy theory,” NBC News’s fact-check admitted between-the-lines that the theory had some credibility. Even if the form was not the same form that the whistleblower filled out (which would be difficult to verify), the fact that it had to be revised does add credibility to the Trump allies’ claim that a form was changed.
NBC News’s fact check failed to prove its point and validated the counter-argument that it was attempting to disprove.
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Photo by Anthony Quintano