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WATCH LIVE: IMPEACHMENT HEARINGS

Pentagon Papers Whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg: ‘Trump Has Put a Bullseye on the Back’ of This Whistleblower

Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg defended the White House whistleblower that sparked the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump and strongly argued for keeping his or her identity secret: “Trump has put a bullseye on the back of that person.”

Ellsberg, who famously spirited thousands of pages of damning Nixon administration documents about the Vietnam War to the New York Times, also pushed back against Republican outrage that House Democrats may not end up calling on the whistleblower to testify as part of their investigation into Trump’s Ukraine scandal.

“Dan, the whistleblower’s attorney says the person’s identity is no longer relevant. What do you make of that argument?” CNN’s John Berman asked.

“It makes sense,” Ellsberg explained. “What they have revealed, what she has revealed or he, is what’s at stake now and there seems to be a lot of corroborating evidence for that now, so it is not the person, it is the information and that seems to be out now.”

Based on that logic, Berman said: “So does this person, in your mind, even if the identity is kept secret, need to testify?”

“President Trump has put a bullseye on the back of that person by calling them a traitor, a spy, and almost calling on his vigilante constituency to take care of this troublesome person for him,” Ellsberg noted, of the president’s not-sot-veiled threats against the whistleblower. “So I think that every effort should be made to keep that person’s identity secret for their own safety, which I think is very much at stake. I hope that she or he will not have to testify. On the other hand, having gone this far, I have a feeling they’re courageous enough to do it if it’s necessary.”

Ellsberg then recounted a chilling moment from his own history as a whistleblower, when a president put his physical safety at risk.

“My wife used to worry that I was in physical danger under President [Richard] Nixon,” he explained. “But I didn’t think it was a problem for US citizens, like me. I was wrong. She was right. On May 3rd, 1972, a dozen CIA assets came up from Miami with orders to incapacitate me totally. And those orders came out of the White House. So they didn’t do it because they felt they were being set up as patsies. But that’s why I say that this whistleblower’s safety is a problem, is being in danger just as it was then.”

Berman then pressed Ellsberg on another Republican objection to the whistleblower, that his or her report is inherently flawed because it lacks first-hand knowledge of Trump’s alleged misconduct.

“That’s an absurd statement. It doesn’t have any legal bearing, moral bearing, ethical, anything else,” Ellsberg countered. “I had knowledge, first-hand knowledge in the White House that the president, Lyndon Johnson, was violating his oath of office by lying and sending us to a wrongful war and I was violating my oath along with him by keeping my mouth shut about that. But most of what I put out of the 7,000 top secret pages were not my firsthand knowledge. It was documentary evidence. And that wasn’t the last word either. But it was good information. It had nothing to do with first-hand knowledge. The point is that there has to be an examination of that evidence as to whether the president has, in fact, violated their oath of office. And I would say that every person who listened in on that phone call and heard the president committing a crime with 12 persons listening in and every one of them who kept their mouths shut about that, who ordered that information locked up, was violating their oath of office and is impeachable as a result.”

Watch the video above, via CNN.

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