A tweet from @SethFromThe716 is very popular (4.2K likes at the time of this question).

It says

[U.S. Senator] Rand Paul violated the law by publicly outing the whistleblower [of President Trump], and he violated the Senate Impeachment rules by walking out to tweet after being told several times, by the Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, that his question was inappropriate.


  1. Would Rand Paul outing the whistleblow violate Senate rules?

  2. Would Rand Paul outing the whistleblower be an illegal act?

  • 4
    In how far are questions 2 and 3 on-topic for skeptics.SE? Seems to me that they're more suitable for politics.SE and law.SE, respectively.
    – Schmuddi
    Commented Jan 31, 2020 at 8:08
  • 5
    I know, and as the top questions for these tags show, these tags can serve a purpose that is well within scope of skeptics.SE. Still, question (3) has to be answered by proper application of current US law, and an answer to (2) is about allowed proceeding in the Senate. I don't really see how skeptics.SE could be a better place for them than law.SE and politics.SE, as neither question is really about testing notable claims by applying the scientific method.
    – Schmuddi
    Commented Jan 31, 2020 at 10:07
  • 2
    Duplicate of law.stackexchange.com/questions/46211/…
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Jan 31, 2020 at 12:05
  • 2
    This question gives the impression of just being another opportunity to punish an alleged whistleblower by outing their identity to a wider group of people. Is there any reason to include the name?
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Jan 31, 2020 at 12:08
  • 2
    I think I cannot know the motivations of the users. I think both give the impression that the motivation isn't reaching the truth but pushing a political position. I think leaving such questions without fixing them leaves a broken window that suggests that this site is a good place for that. I am going to make some edits.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Jan 31, 2020 at 12:45

1 Answer 1


Summarizing my answer from law.SE... According a NYT analysis, the law only bars certain executive functionaries like the inspector general from making such disclosures; senators/legislators are not on that list.

Do whistle-blowers have a right to remain anonymous?

Only in a limited way. Another part of the Inspector General Act says that agency watchdogs “shall not, after receipt of a complaint or information from an employee, disclose the identity of the employee without the consent of the employee, unless the inspector general determines such disclosure is unavoidable.”

In line with that law, the inspector general for the intelligence community, Michael Atkinson, did not include the whistle-blower’s name in his report to the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire. Mr. Maguire testified last week that he did not know the name of the person [...]

But the legal prohibition on disclosing the official’s name applies only to Mr. Atkinson. It does not bar Mr. Trump and his allies from trying to identify him or disclosing his name if they figure it out. (It would be illegal under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act for any official to disclose his name if he is a covert agent, but no one has suggested that he is.)

(There's a quote from OIG that confirms that on law.SE; I'm omitting it here.)

As for the senate rules on walking out... there's a distinction to be made between the rules of the Senate that have been voted on and the instructions passed out by leadership for the trial.

Nothing in the official Senate impeachment rules forbids it. The rules, dating from March 2, 1868, make little mention of the chamber at all, except to determine that the doors to the Senate should be left open, unless the members are in deliberations.

Senate leaders Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) circulated their own guidance ahead of the trial, where they made passing mention of the attendance expectations.

“Senators should plan to be in attendance at all times during the proceedings,” they wrote in the decorum guidelines.

“During the impeachment proceedings, standing will not be permitted on the floor and this requirement will be strictly enforced,” they also wrote. “Accordingly, all Senators are requested to remain in their seats at all times they are on the Senate floor during the impeachment proceedings.”

But that’s about it. And some senators are having little trouble bucking what limited guidance they’ve been given.

Per CNN, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) spent more time out of his seat than in it Wednesday night. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) also left for stretches, while Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) could be seen using his iPhone in the Democratic cloakroom (electronics are banned from the chamber during the trial).

I.e. the guidance on being in attendance at all times has been shirked more broadly.

  • Absolutely correct.
    – user36356
    Commented Feb 4, 2020 at 20:32

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