Eric Ciaramella is a CIA analyst and former National Security Council staffer who has served in both the Obama and Trump administrations as a career intelligence officer. He has been identified by multiple conservative news outlets and Republican politicians as the possible whistleblower whose complaint about President Donald Trump’s call with the president of Ukraine led to Trump’s impeachment. Senators, congressmen and President Trump himself have either used his name on social media or retweeted others who have used his name. Ciaramella has not responded to requests for comment about the reports he was the whistleblower. And the whistleblower’s attorneys have refused to confirm or deny whether Ciaramella is their client.
Ciaramella was named on social media in early October and by Real Clear Investigations on October 30, after weeks of speculation about his identity. According to the conservative-leaning Real Clear Investigations, Ciaramella’s name has been an open secret in Washington D.C. His name has since been spread by conservative pundits and websites, including the Washington Examiner and The Federalist. Senator Rand Paul called for the whistleblower to be subpoenaed to testify under oath and tweeted a link to the RCI story that included Ciaramella’s name. Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz also shared a link to the RCI article on Twitter.
On December 27 and December 28, Trump retweeted tweets that included Ciaramella’s name and links to articles that included his name.
Ciaramella’s name appears in the transcript of a closed-door Congressional session as part of the impeachment inquiry. The transcript of the October 22 deposition of Bill Taylor, the top diplomat in Ukraine, was released by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff on November 6. Attorney Steve Castor, a lawyer for Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee asked Taylor about the whistleblower complaint. During the questioning, Castor asked, “Does a person by the name of Eric Ciaramella ring a bell for you?” Taylor responded, “It doesn’t.” Castor then asked Taylor if, to his knowledge, he had never had communication with Ciaramella. Taylor responded, “Correct.”
On November 6, Donald Trump Jr. tweeted a link to a Breitbart article about Ciaramella and wrote, “Because of course he did!!! Alleged ‘Whistleblower’ Eric Ciaramella Worked Closely with Anti-Trump Dossier Hoaxer.” The tweet led to anger and the president’s son responded, “The entire media is #Triggered that I (a private citizen) tweeted out a story naming the alleged whistleblower. Are they going to pretend that his name hasn’t been in the public domain for weeks now? Numerous people & news outlets including Real Clear Politics already ID’d him.”
Ciaramella could not be reached for comment by Heavy. The whistleblower’s attorneys issued a statement saying they neither confirm nor deny Ciaramella is the whistleblower. Ciaramella’s father told Real Clear Investigations he doubts his son is the whistleblower, saying, “He didn’t have that kind of access to that kind of information. He’s just a guy going to work every day.”
According to The Washington Post, the whistleblower is still working at the CIA, but has been provided security. “The CIA analyst who triggered the impeachment inquiry continues to work on issues relating to Russia and Ukraine, but when threats against him spike — often seemingly spurred by presidential tweets — he is driven to and from work by armed security officers,” the newspaper wrote.
The whistleblower’s attorneys and Democrats have fought to keep his identity concealed, while Trump and his Republican allies have called for him to be identified publicly, saying he should be questioned about why he came forward and possible political bias because of his background. The existence of whistleblower complaint regarding Trump’s conduct with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was first revealed in September.
After Real Clear Investigation’s report, conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, whose nationally syndicated show reaches millions of listeners, named Ciaramella on air.
While Fox News has banned its hosts and contributors from mentioning Ciaramella’s name, according to CNN, one of the network’s guests, syndicated radio host Lars Larson, said the name during a segment on November 7 on “Outnumbered Overtime” with Harris Faulkner. She did not respond or mention his use of Ciaramella’s name.
Mark Zaid and Andrew Bakaj, the attorneys who are representing the whistleblower, issued a statement about Ciaramella being identified as possibly being their client, “Our client is legally entitled to anonymity. Disclosure of the name of any person who may be suspected to be the whistleblower places that individual and their family in great physical danger. Any physical harm the individual and/or their family suffers as a result of disclosure means that the individuals and publications reporting such names will be personally liable for that harm. Such behavior is at the pinnacle of irresponsibility and is intentionally reckless.”
Zaid and Bakaj issued an additional statement after Trump Jr.’s tweet, saying, “We will note, however, that publication or promotion of a name shows the desperation to deflect from the substance of the whistleblower complaint. It will not relieve the president of the need to address the substantive allegations, all of which have been substantially proven to be true.”
According to the Washington Examiner, Ciaramella is currently detailed by the CIA to the National Intelligence Committee, where he works as a deputy national intelligence officer for Russia and Eurasia. He reports to Trump’s acting Director of National Intelligence, Joseph Maguire. He likely works closely with Alexander Vindman, the impeachment inquiry witness who is now Ukraine director for the NSC, Ciaramella’s former role.
A former Trump official told the Examiner, “It is close to a mathematical certainty that (Vindman and the whistleblower) know one another and that (the whistleblower) is being used to provide analytical support to the National Security Council on the topics of Russia and Ukraine. And that is where they would have crossed paths. They would know who one another are.” Another former Trump official said Vindman and Ciaramella both spent time at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine during the Obama administration. And they have both been working on Ukraine issues for several years.
Vindman said during his Congressional deposition, “I want the committee to know I am not the whistleblower who brought this issue to the CIA and the committee’s attention. … I do not know who the whistleblower is, and I would not feel comfortable to speculate as to the identity of the whistleblower.” Vindman testified that he listened in on the July 25 call at question in the impeachment inquiry and was concerned. ““I was concerned by the call. I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen, and I was worried about the implications for the U.S. government’s support of Ukraine,” he testified.
During the Trump impeachment hearings, Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert, of Texas, mentioned Ciaramella’s name, without context or while saying he was the possible whistleblower, while listing several names that some Republicans believe to be part of a Democratic conspiracy against Trump.
Here’s what you need to know about Eric Ciaramella:
1. Ciaramella Is a Ukraine Expert for the CIA Whose Background Matches Details About the Whistleblower Previously Reported by The New York Times
Eric Ciaramella, 33, is a Ukraine expert and his background matches the biographical details reported by The New York Times and other media outlets about the whistleblower. According to The Times, the whistleblower is a CIA officer who was detailed to work at the White House before returning to the CIA. The Times wrote, “His complaint suggested he was an analyst by training and made clear he was steeped in details of American foreign policy toward Europe, demonstrating a sophisticated understanding of Ukrainian politics and at least some knowledge of the law.”
The whistleblower raised concerns that Trump had asked Zelensky during a July 2019 phone call to investigate former Vice President and current Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, and his son, Hunter Biden. Trump is accused of forcing a quid pro quo in which aid to Ukraine would only be released if an investigation was launched.
In September, after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a formal impeachment, a redacted version of the whistleblower’s complaint and a summary of Trump’s call with Zelensky were made public. The complaint revealed that the whistleblower was not on the call, but learned of concerning information from others with direct knowledge about it.
“The White House officials who told me this information were deeply disturbed by what had transpired in the phone call. They told me that there was already a ‘discussion ongoing’ with White House lawyers about how to treat the call because of the likelihood, in the officials’ retelling, that they had witnessed the President abuse his office for personal gain,” the whistleblower wrote.
In the weeks since, several current and former State Department and other government officials have testified behind closed doors before House committees, with many providing verification of the whistleblower’s claims, according to multiple reports. Sources told Real Clear Investigations that Ciaramella’s name has been mentioned as the whistleblower during the closed-door testimony.
Ciaramella has worked for the Central Intelligence Agency for several years and was assigned to the White House during the end of the Obama administration. He worked closely with Biden in his role as an expert on Ukraine. Ciaramella also has ties to Sean Misko, a former NSC co-worker who now works for Representative Adam Schiff and the Intelligence Committee. According to The New York Times, the whistleblower first went to a CIA lawyer and then to an unnamed Schiff aide before filing the whistleblower complaint. The aide told the whistleblower to follow the formal process, but conveyed some of the information he learned from him to Schiff, without revealing his name, The Times reported.
“Like other whistle-blowers have done before and since under Republican and Democratic-controlled committees, the whistle-blower contacted the committee for guidance on how to report possible wrongdoing within the jurisdiction of the intelligence community,” said Patrick Boland, a spokesman for Schiff, told The Times.
The whistleblower’s ties to Democrats, including Biden, Schiff, former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of Intelligence James Clapper and former National Security Adviser Susan Rice, have created controversy, with Trump and Republicans using his past work with them in an attempt to discredit him. Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert told a local radio station in his home state of Texas that many in Washington D.C. knew the whistleblower’s identity, calling him a “staunch Democrat,” and former “point person on Ukraine,” who never called out corruption in the Eastern European country.
Ciaramella has been in the crosshairs of Republicans previously, after some on the far right tied him to the Obama-associated “deep state” in 2017, accusing him of undermining Trump while he was working in the White House.
The whistleblower’s attorneys have received more than $220,000 in donations to a GoFundMe campaign set up by the group Whistleblower Aid in support of his attorneys, Mark Zaid and Andrew Bakaj.
“A 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 launched a crowdfunding effort to support the whistleblower’s lawyers,” the GoFundMe states. “These whistleblowers took great personal risks, not for politics or personal gain, but to defend our democracy. We need to have their backs.”
The GoFundMe adds, “If we raise more than we need, Whistleblower Aid will use the money to help more brave whistleblowers stand up to executive overreach.”
2. Eric Ciaramella Grew Up in Connecticut, Studied at Yale & Harvard & Worked at the World Bank
Eric Ciaramella grew up in Prospect, Connecticut, as one of three children. He spent time attending Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls, Connecticut, and then graduated from Chase Collegiate School, in Waterbury, Connecticut, in 2004, according to the prep school’s alumni magazine.
After high school, Ciaramella attended Yale University, graduating in 2008 as a Russian and East European studies major. In 2007, he was awarded a grant by the Yale Macmillan Center for European Union Studies to “research on the perceptions of the EU among rural Italian residents.”
While at Yale, Ciaramella, who speaks Russian, Ukrainian and Arabic, led a protest over the departure of an Arabic department professor, according to the Yale Daily News. The student newspaper wrote, “Students convened outside Silliman at 9 a.m., all dressed in white to symbolize their future goal of bridging the gap between the United States and the Middle East through the use of the Arab language, said Eric Ciaramella ’08, one of the students who led the protest.”
Ciaramella also studied at Harvard University, focusing on Russia, Eastern Europe, Central Asia, according to the school’s website. He received a grant in 2009 for research on “Language in the Public Sphere in Three Post-Soviet Capital Cities,” Tbilisi, Georgia; Yerevan, Armenia; Baku, Azerbaijan. Ciaramella was additionally a corresponding author for Harvard’s Department of Linguistics and wrote a paper in 2015 titled, “Structural ambiguity in the Georgian verbal noun.”
Ciaramella worked at the World Bank after college, according to a 2011 publication by the international financial institution. In the World Bank report, “Russia: Reshaping Economic Geography,” published in June 2011, Ciaramella is listed in the acknowledgments for making “important contributions” to the research. On a now-deleted Linkedin profile, he described himself as being a “Consultant, Poverty Reduction/Economic Management” at World Bank. Ciaramella also deleted his Facebook profile page and does not appear to have any other social media.
Public records show that Ciaramella was a registered Democrat while he lived in Connecticut. According to CNN, the inspector general for the intelligence committee mentioned and dismissed concerns about political bias because the whistleblower is registered as a Democrat.
Inspector General Michael Atkinson wrote, “Further although the ICIG’s preliminary reviewed identified some indicia of bias of an arguable political bias on the part of the complainant in favor of a rival political candidate, such evidence did not change my determination that the complaint relating to the urgent concern ‘appears credible’ particularly given the other information the ICIG obtained during its preliminary review.”
Mark Zaid, an attorney for the whistleblower tweeted in response to the story, “We won’t comment on identifying info but if true, give me a break! Bias? Seriously? Most (people) are.” Another attorney for the whistleblower, Andrew Bakaj, told CNN that the whistleblower had “contact with presidential candidates from both parties in their roles as elected officials — not as candidates,” and said the whistleblower “has never worked for or advised a political candidate, campaign or party.
3. Ciaramella Was Detailed to the National Security Council at the White House in 2015 After Joining the CIA as an Analyst Focusing on Ukraine & Russia
Eric Ciaramella joined the Central Intelligence Agency at some point during President Obama’s second term. According to reports by The Washington Post and The New York Times about the whistleblower, prior to Ciaramella being named, and online records, Ciaramella was detailed to the White House to serve as a Ukraine expert with the National Security Council in 2015. He worked under National Security Advisor Susan Rice. The NSC is made up of analysts and staffers from various intelligence agencies, including the CIA, who are detailed to the White House for a period of time, before eventually returning to their parent agencies.
During his time with the National Security Council, Ciaramella also worked with then-Vice President Biden, who was working closely on Ukraine issues at the end of Obama’s time in office. Ciaramella is also listed as a guest at a 2016 luncheon to honor the prime minister of Italy, along with Biden.
In November 2015, Ciaramella is named as one of the officials who attended a White House meeting with Ukrainian religious leaders, along with his boss, Charles Kupchan. The Ukrainian religious leaders delivered a letter appealing to President Obama for aid for their country. Ciaramella is listed as the “NSC Director for Ukraine.” That position is now held by Alexander Vindman, a key witness in the impeachment inquiry, who listened to the call between President Trump and President Zelensky.
Ciaramella also has ties to former Democratic National Committee operative and opposition researcher Alexandra Chalupa, a Ukrainian-American who has been targeted by some conservatives as being behind an effort to accuse the Trump campaign of Russian collusion. Chalupa, then with the National Democratic Ethnic Coordinating Committee, was also in attendance at the November 2015 meeting with Ukrainian religious leaders, according to public records.
While Republicans have accused Chalupa of being a leader of a conspiracy to bring down Trump with false accusations of collusion with Russia, Democrats have said Chalupa was among the first to bring forward credible information about wrongdoing by Paul Manafort and the Trump campaign and say she has been smeared because of that.
4. Ciaramella Remained at the NSC During the Earlier Months of the Trump Administration & an Email Ciaramella Sent While He Was Still Assigned to NSC Was Cited in the Mueller Report
Eric Ciaramella did not leave the National Security Council at the end of the Obama administration. He remained in place during the first few months of the Trump White House. The NSC staff was at a barebones level at the time after the resignation of Lt. General Michael Flynn, who had been Trump’s first National Security Adviser. Ciaramella worked on Eastern European issues along with another Obama administration holdover, Fiona Hill.
When Lt. General H.R. McMaster was named Trump’s new national security adviser, Ciaramella served as McMaster’s personal aide. In the summer of 2017, Ciaramella returned to the CIA, where he is still an active employee.
An email sent by Ciaramella while he was still assigned to the NSC was cited as a footnote in Robert Mueller’s report on the Trump investigation. The email was titled “(5/10/17 Email, Ciaramella to Kelly et al.),” but details of the email are not included in the redacted report.
Officials who worked with Ciaramella told Foreign Policy he is known for his professionalism and taking a nonpartisan stance, telling Foreign Policy he is a “seasoned pro” and “one of the best that the civil service has.” His former boss, Charles Kupchan, told Foreign Policy, Ciaramella is one of the, “worker bees of the federal government. They want to serve the nation, and they care deeply about the issues they’re working on.”
Kupchan said Ciaramella was brought in to work on Ukraine, but, “He did such an impressive job, I asked him to help share the burden on the counter-ISIL portfolio.”
Trump administration officials also praised Ciaramella, telling Foreign Policy,”“H.R. thought he did a good job. Everybody was happy with his performance. He wouldn’t have been there if he weren’t trusted.”
5. Ciaramella Was the Target of Trump Supporters in 2017 When He Was Accused of Leaking to the Media Because of His Ties to Susan Rice & the Obama Administration
Ciaramella is no stranger to drawing the ire of Trump supporters. He was named by the far-right as a supposed member of the “deep state” in 2017 and was the subject of baseless accusations accusing him of leaking information to the media, simply because of his ties to former members of the Obama administration, including ex-National Security Adviser Susan Rice, who has often been accused of trying to undermine Trump.
His ties to Rice, Brennan, Clapper and Obama made him an easy target for the right. He was accused of leaking information to the media about Michael Flynn’s conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak, without any evidence.
Ciaramella was also accused of being a major leaker while working with McMaster. Several far-right personalities waged an open war on social media and on pro-Trump websites against McMaster during his time as national security adviser, constantly claiming he was undermining Trump and had too many former Obama aides on his team. McMaster also worked with Abigail Grace and Sean Misko, both also Obama holdovers. Grace and Misko are now aides to Rep. Schiff. McMaster’s staffers were frequently accused of being behind leaks of embarrassing details about Trump’s calls to foreign leaders. None of those accusations were ever proven.
According to a March 2019 article in Politico:
Trump political appointees were believed to frequently talk to journalists who worked for conservative media outlets. For months, those outlets published names of career Civil and Foreign Service officers in the NSC and other government agencies whose loyalties they deemed suspect. Career staffers who had joined the U.S. government many years, sometimes decades, earlier were suddenly cast as Obama loyalists determined to derail Trump’s agenda as part of a “deep state.” The people targeted included a State Department civil servant of Iranian descent who’d joined the government under the George W. Bush administration; a highly respected Foreign Service officer who dealt with Israeli issues; and an NSC staffer who dealt with European and Russian issues. The latter, Eric Ciaramella, reportedly left the NSC after receiving death threats.
Ciaramella was outed in a Medium article by the far-right figure Mike Cernovich in June 2017, claiming that the former Obama aide wanted to “sabotage” Trump. Foreign Policy wrote in 2017, “The piece described Eric Ciaramella as ‘pro-Ukraine and anti-Russia’ and alleged, with no evidence, that he was possibly responsible for high-level leaks. Cernovich wrote, “Nothing in his résumé indicates that Ciaramella will put America First. His entire life arc indicates he will sabotage Trump and leak information to the press whenever possible.”
The response to the piece included online threats of violence against Ciaramella, which contributed to his decision to leave his job at the National Security Council a few weeks early, according to two sources familiar with the situation.”
Charles Kupchan, who was the senior director for European Affairs on the NSC, was Ciaramella’s boss for two years during the Obama administration. Kupchan, a key Obama adviser, told Foreign Policy the alt-right led an “unprecedented” attack on civil servants, calling the “systematic hostility” against the “deep state” as “misplaced” and “dangerous.”
As speculation about whether Eric Ciaramella is the whistleblower spreads online and in conservative media and circles, elected Republican officials are calling for his identity to be revealed.
“Well, as far as that particular person, regardless of whether or not he’s a whistleblower, he apparently worked for [former CIA Director John] Brennan. He worked for H.R. McMaster. He worked for Biden. He was tasked to the National Security Council on Ukraine,” Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert told the Washington Examiner. “And, gee, sounds like he’s got bigger problems than being a whistleblower, regardless of whether he is or not.”
Gohmert mentioned Ciaramella’s name, out of the blue, during an open House hearing on unrelated issues on October 22.
Gohmert was questioning Natalie Jaresko, who is the executive director of a fiscal board that oversees Puerto Rico’s debt, during a House Natural Resources Committee hearing. Jaresko was previously Ukraine’s finance minister. Gohmert asked Jaresko, if, in her previous role, she was, aware of “Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko dispatching Olga Bielkova or any other Ukrainian official to the U.S. in order to conduct an influence campaign on the 2016 election here in the United States?” He then asked, “Are you aware of Ukrainian parliamentarian Bielkova’s April 12 meetings with Liz Zentos and Eric Ciaramella of the Obama National Security Council?”
North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows told reporters, “I can’t tell you what happens in the depositions, but I can tell you there’s one person in one’s group of staff members who know who the whistleblower is and that is Adam Schiff, and so you need to ask him whether this guy is the real deal.”
Senator Rand Paul tweeted, “It is being reported that the whistleblower was Joe Biden’s point man on Ukraine. It is imperative the whistleblower is subpoenaed and asked under oath about Hunter Biden and corruption.”
Fred Fleitz, a former CIA analyst and the former chief of staff for the National Security Council, told Real Clear Investigations, “Everyone knows who he is. CNN knows. The Washington Post knows. The New York Times knows. Congress knows. The White House knows. Even the president knows who he is. They’re hiding him. They’re hiding him because of his political bias.”
Democrats have sought to keep the name concealed and have criticized efforts by Republicans to name the whistleblower. Democratic Rep. David Cicilline, of Rhode Island, tweeted, “If you spent part of today Tweeting the name of a person you think is the whistleblower, you probably need to re-evaluate your life.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters it would be “unpatriotic” to reveal the whistleblower’s identity:
Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor turned CNN legal analyst, tweeted, “Today Trump’s allies spread the name of a man they believe is the whistleblower. Some call for his prosecution. They’re ruining the life of a public servant who may not be the right guy. Plus there’s no evidence he did anything wrong. This is so desperate and irresponsible.”
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