Andrew P. Bakaj is the lawyer representing the whistleblower who came forward with information about President Donald Trump and his conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky about an investigation into 2020 democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.
The whistleblower’s intel, which has now been turned over to Congress confidentially, pushed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to announce a formal impeachment inquiry against Trump on September 24, 2019.
Lead counsel on this high-profile case is the 36-year-old Bakaj, a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer, who now works as the founding & managing partner of Compass Rose Legal Group, PLLC. Between 2012 and 2014, he worked with whistleblower case inside the Central Intelligence Agency, and is considered uniquely qualified to act on this case alongside fellow attorney, Mark S. Zaid.
Here’s what you need to know about Andrew P. Bakaj:
1. Bakaj Is a Connecticut Native Who Attended George Washington University & Syracuse Law
Andrew Bakaj and Mark Zaid are involved in Whistleblower Aid, a nonpartisan legal nonprofit that supports “individuals who, lawfully, report government and corporate law breaking. We can provide assistance to individuals in the United States or abroad who want to disclose illegal conduct, including misconduct relating to,” according to its website.
Zaid is a founding legal partner of Whistleblower Aid, while Bakaj is of counsel for the organization. The nonprofit’s website says, “Bakaj served as an intelligence officer and criminal investigator with the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Central Intelligence Agency. Bakaj won DoD’s Investigator of the Year award in 2012 for his work on chemical weapons storage. He personally wrote both CIA and DoD agency regulations prohibiting reprisals against whistleblowers. Andrew Bakaj of Compass Rose Legal Group PLLC serves of counsel to Whistleblower Aid.”
Originally from Stamford, Connecticut, where he attended Trinity Catholic High School, the George Washington University alum and graduate of Syracuse School of Law, has appeared as an expert or consulted on matters for numerous news and TV shows.
Bakaj previously served as a Senior Investigator with the Department of Defense (DoD) Office of Inspector General, where he managed global investigative operations involving time-sensitive and high profile investigations.
According to his Linkedin profile, Bakaj was an intern at the U.S. State Department from June 2002 to August 2002 at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine. He, “Created the Embassy’s fraud database, performed various counter-fraud duties, interviewed visa candidates, translated official Ukrainian/Russian documents into English, and represented official U.S. interests at various events throughout Ukraine. Notable: was the on-scene official at the L’viv Air Show tragedy and assisted in coordinating U.S. Aid to the region. Assisted the Council General, Director of the Fraud Unit, and the Political Attaché in various capacities,” according to his Linkedin.
Bakaj worked as a law clerk for his hometown of Stamford and for the U.S. Justice Department.
He was a private attorney for a year, before joining the Department of Defense as a senior investigator in 2008, a role he held until 2012. He remained in the government in the CIA from 2012 to 2015 in the inspector general’s investigations office.
2. Bakaj Was Wrongly Terminated for Working With CIA Whistleblowers in 2014, According to External Investigators
According to his LinkedIn profile, Bakaj started working with CIA in 2012, and helped ensure the agency was complying with President Barack Obama’s new directive to protect whistleblowers with access to classified information who expose fraud, waste, and abuse. In April 2014, Bakaj’s co-workers shared with him their concerns with multiple senior employees at the CIA inspector general’s office who were involved in facilitating or covering up evidence mishandling one of its investigations.
Bakaj then spoke with the intelligence community inspector general’s office (ICIG) about those concerns. According to source, superiors at the CIA interfered in interview with the ICIG to find out the whistleblowers’ names. Afterward, Bakaj’s security clearance was suspended and was put on administrative leave. A year later, in 2015, Bakaj retired from the CIA, and became a managing partner of Compass Rose Legal Group.
Over five years later, on August 8, 2019, external investigators reviewed Bakaj’s case and the Department of Homeland Security concluded that he was retaliated against by his superiors who were trying to expose the whistleblowers in the office. While full conclusions remain classified, and Bakaj is not listed by name, his attorney, Mark Zaid, confirmed that it was him.
Irvin McCullough, a national security analyst for the Government Accountability Project, a nonprofit whistleblower protection organization wrote of Bakaj, “Whistleblowers need engaged guardians inside the government — and that requires a trustworthy arbiter to protect them. Andrew has dedicated his career to building a bridge for the whistleblowers who come after him, and inspectors general across the community should take note of this landmark finding,” according to Yahoo News.
3. Bakaj Is Married, Has a Daughter & Is an Avid Biker & Golfer
As a leading expert in security clearance matters, who has advised numerous senior U.S. Government officials in a variety of legal and investigative areas, Bakaj doesn’t share too much of his personal life on social media.
While he doesn’t have an Instagram account, he shares news and case updates via Twitter, and occasionally post photos of his family on Facebook. Based on his featured pictures, it appears he is married and has one daughter. His wife is a teacher.
While Bakaj has practiced in both New Jersey, he is based in Washington D.C., and when former intelligence officer is not working, he’s outside biking, running triathlons, or teeing up at Top Golf.
Bakaj is a fan of all the local sports teams, and regularly attends Washington Redskins games at FedEx Field or cheers on the Nationals at National Stadium.
4. Bakaj Is Keeping the Identity of His Whistleblower Client a Secret
On August 12, an anonymous U.S. official filed a complaint with the Intelligence Community Inspector General, an organization in charge of investigations into fraud, abuse, waste and illegal acts for employees working in the intelligence agencies, and on September 18, The Washington Post reported the complaint deals with Trump’s communications with a foreign official, for which Inspector General Michael Atkinson flagged as “credible” and “urgent.”
On September 24, Bakaj sent a ‘Notice of Intent to Contact Congressional Intelligence Committees’ letter to acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, who took over for Dan Coats directly with the complaint. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff, who was copied on Bakaj’s letter, responded the same day. Schiff, who represented California’s 28th congressional district, asked for the whistleblower to come in for “voluntary interview” after Maguire testifies in a rare, open session Thursday, September 26, in a “secure location.”
A day before Maguire’s testimony, the whistleblower complaint was made available to members of Congress, but it has been set as classified. Several members of Congress have called for the complaint to be declassified and made available to the public.
Bakaj’s law firm has started a GoFundMe for the unnamed intelligence officer who is the whistleblower against Trump.
“The U.S. intelligence officer who filed an urgent report of government misconduct needs your help. This brave individual took an oath to protect and defend our Constitution. We’re working with the whistleblower and just launched a crowdfunding effort to pay the whistleblower’s legal fees,” the firm wrote. “The whistleblower needs help covering legal expenses. The Department of Justice has incorrectly asserted that this whistleblower doesn’t deserve legal protections. This brave public servant could face retaliation and needs your support.
The GoFundMe adds, “Donations will only be accepted from U.S. citizens. All funds that remain after the conclusion of this matter will be returned to Whistleblower Aid’s budget to help other brave Americans make lawful disclosures about government wrongdoing. The whistleblower took a great personal risk to defend our democracy, and did not do this for politics or personal gain. We need to have the whistleblower’s back.”
On the GoFundMe, Bakaj’s firm writes, “Let’s be clear–what’s happening is outrageous. The law is clear–whistleblowers must be permitted to speak to Members of Congress anonymously. Lawful disclosures are a basic element of oversight and republican governance. The whistleblowers’ legal counsel–Andrew Bakaj and Mark Zaid of Compass Rose Legal Group–are also core members of Whistleblower Aid’s team. They have helped to build this organization from scratch.”
About Bakaj it says, “He’s modest–but actually amazing. While Andrew was himself in government, he literally wrote the CIA and Pentagon rules prohibiting retaliation against whistleblowers. Then, after cooperating with an official investigation into CIA misconduct, he was subject to illegal reprisals and forced out of his job–in violation of the rules that he had written himself!”
The GoFundMe states, “We are so proud of Andrew and Mark. We can’t imagine a better team to protect the anonymous intelligence officer, and bring their disclosures to light. If we raise more than we need, Whistleblower Aid will use the money to help more brave whistleblowers stand up to executive overreach.”
5. Bakaj Spoke Out on Jared Kushner’s ‘Abnormally High’ Security Level, Made a Small Donation to Joe Biden’s Campaign & Worked for Democrats
“This is pretty bad,” Bakaj said to ThinkProgess on Kushner’s Top Secret security clearance at The White House. While Trump has the ability to legally grant Kushner such a clearance, there’s concern since his son-in-law has no experience handling Top Secret information, and his ability to use this intel for meetings with foreign officials, and his ongoing international business deals in Saudi Arabia.
After news reports surfaced that Kushner met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislayk just before Trump took office Bakaj prompted the question, “Why would he want to conceal his communications with a foreign adversary from our own intelligence services?”
Bakaj described to WAMU the difference between secret and top secret information is the “sensitivity of the information that you’ll have access to.” While disclosure of secret information can cause serious damage to national security, disclosure of top secret information can cause grave damage.”
Bakaj, meanwhile, has faced criticism from Trump and his allies about his past ties to Democrats, although there is no evidence of bias in the accusations brought by his client or in his choice to represent the client.
Bakaj made a $100 campaign contribution to former Vice President Joe Biden’s 2020 Democratic presidential primary campaign through ActBlue, according to Federal Election Commission records. He made the contribution on April 26, 2019. ActBlue is a nonprofit that facilitates contributions to Democratic candidates.
Bakaj interned for Senator Chuck Schumer in the spring of 2001 and for then-Senator Hillary Clinton the fall of the same year.