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What 'Whistleblower' Means

A woman blows a whistle during a protest against the president of Serbia in 2018. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
What 'Whistleblower' Means
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A lawyer said over the weekend that the person he represents is ready to answer questions from Republicans on an American congressional committee.

Lawyer Mark Zaid’s comments appeared Sunday on Twitter. Zaid represents a whistleblower connected to an American intelligence element. The individual expressed concern about a discussion between American President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The leaders’ telephone call in July has led to a congressional investigation. The whistleblower reported that the president had pressed Ukraine to investigate former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

Joe Biden is seeking nomination to become the Democratic Party presidential candidate for the 2020 election.

Zaid said that the only questions the whistleblower will refuse to answer concern his or her identity.

So, what is a whistleblower?

The word sounds like it means a person directing a game, or a police officer directing traffic. Those people often has a device called a whistle, which makes a loud sound when you blow air through it. The sound of the whistle is usually a sign that someone has violated a rule.

But, “blow the whistle” can also mean to tell police, reporters or officials about something that has been kept secret -- like a possible crime.

“Whistleblower” is an official term that means someone who exposes wrongdoing with an aim to put a stop to it.

Historically, whistleblowers have done an important job in stopping government corruption and abuse. Whistleblowers enjoy legal protections under U.S. laws.

Members of Congress support whistleblowing in order to limit waste, lying and abuse or misuse of power in government. Lawmakers have created ways for government workers to make official declarations of wrongdoing. Whistleblowers can take their reports to someone empowered to deal with them, or directly to a lawmaker.

Congress also protects whistleblowers by making sure their supervisors do not take action against them. In the 1990s and early 2000s, Congress passed additional laws to urge people who work for intelligence groups to report issues of “urgent concern.” If the issue is believed to be serious, it must be reported to Congress.

The current whistleblower’s identity has not been made public. But Trump has repeatedly suggested it is a man who worked for the Obama administration. Trump has called the whistleblower a “traitor” who deserves to be dealt with severely.

Lawyer Mark Zaid tweeted Sunday that the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee could ask questions, which the whistleblower would answer “in writing.”

The president said on social media Monday that written answers are not good enough. “What I said on the phone call with the Ukrainian President is ‘perfectly’ stated, Trump tweeted. “There is no reason to call witnesses to analyze my words and meaning,” he said.

I’m Caty Weaver.

George Grow adapted this report for Learning English from VOA News reports. Caty Weaver was the editor.

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Words in This Story

expose - v. to make public something hidden or dishonest

impeachmentn. the action of bringing legal action against a public official for a crime

traitorn. a person who is not loyal to his or her own country, friends, etc.; a person who betrays a country or group of people by helping or supporting an enemy

analyzev. to examine

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