NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Louisiana’s senior U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy is questioning whether a whistleblower at the heart of the Democrats’ launching an impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump is officially a whistleblower.
The unidentified whistleblower was not in the room when Trump encouraged the president of the Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son during a summertime phone call. But the complaint was made public Thursday (Sept. 26) and it says in the days following the phone call, the whistleblower had learned from multiple U.S. officials that senior White House officials took actions to lock down all records of the call.
Cassidy focused on the fact that the person behind the complaint did not actually witness the call.
"He's not a whistleblower by definition because he did not participate in the conversation. That's a legal term, he heard this from somebody who heard it from somebody,” said Cassidy.
During a nationally televised congressional hearing, acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire testified before the House Intelligence committee about the administration’s handling of the whistleblower’s complaint. And he said the individual did the right thing by coming forth.
"I want to make it clear that I have upheld my responsibility to follow the law every step of the way in the matter that is before us today. I want to also state my support for the whistleblower and the rights and the laws,” said Maguire.
Tulane constitutional law professor Keith Werhan, who worked in the U.S. Justice Department in Washington, said it is no small matter that the whistleblower’s complaint was made public.
"This is a very big deal,” said Werhan.
He said the fact that the whistleblower was not in the room when the call happened, does not mitigate the seriousness of the complaint.
"Whether or not the whistleblower [was], whether it was firsthand or secondhand, we now have the document and hopefully at some point there's probably a recording, and hopefully that recording will be available as well,” said Werhan.
He thinks the president abused his power.
"It’s a no brainer. This is as clear an abuse of office as one could possibly imagine. Congress had appropriated funding to be provided for the military assistance to Ukraine, the president embargoed that funding, now there are shifting explanations as to why he would have done that and I don’t know the answer to that,” said Werhan.
And he said there are different views on whether the president broke laws.
"On the breaking of laws, there is an argument that it is a campaign finance violation because it's against the law for a campaign to ask a foreign government for something of value and so this arguably, the investigation would be something of value,” said Werhan.” There's at least an argument there, the Justice Department apparently disagrees with that argument and I think that, that's a reasonable back and forth.
Cassidy was asked if Trump could have handled the matter in a better way.
"I think it absolutely could have been done better. Do I think it's an impeachable crime from what we know now? Absolutely not,” he said.
GOP House Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana criticized the Democrats in a tweet.
"Democrats have based this entire whistleblower hearing off of a man with zero firsthand knowledge of the call instead of the actual transcript,” wrote Scalise.
The president insists he did nothing wrong.
Despite the hearing before the House Intelligence committee and blaring headlines about the issue, Werhan says a lot about the impeachment inquiry process remains uncertain and there is no guarantee the president will be impeached by the House.
"I think that things are changing so quickly it’s very hard to predict that,” he said.
Congressman Cedric Richmond of New Orleans, who is the only Democratic member of Louisiana’s congressional delegation, says it is an abuse of power for the president to reach out to other countries to try to get dirt on a political opponent and interfere with an election.