WASHINGTON -- Valerie Plame, whose role as an undercover CIA operative was famously blown in an act of political retribution in 2003, has some advice for the still-anonymous whistleblower who sparked the Trump impeachment investigation: Be prepared to see your life turned upside down.
"Your name is being tossed out in the public sphere and it's being distorted and who you are and what you've done," Plame said Thursday in a telephone interview. "I found it very disorienting."
Plame, a Democrat who is running for a House seat from New Mexico, recalls getting stares and hearing whispers at preschool drop-offs and supermarket lines, seeing her husband challenged to a fight at the airport, and holding awkward conversations with friends and family whom she had misled for years about her life as a spy.
She said she was horrified by calls by President Donald Trump and some of his allies to identify and smear the motives of the individual who filed the complaint despite federal laws intended to shield whistleblowers from retribution.
"These people are bad people and it's so bad what they do to our country," Trump said Wednesday at a political rally in Monroe, La., lumping the whistleblower in with House Democrats leading the impeachment inquiry. "They rip the guts out of a country and it's a shame and they shouldn't be allowed to do it."
Although a parade of White House, State Department and other officials have confirmed and expanded on the whistleblower's account, the president and his allies have suggested that staying anonymous is proof of partisan bias.
Trump long has attacked anyone who criticizes him as biased or corrupt. In September, days after the complaint was revealed, Trump likened the whistleblower to a spy inside the White House who had committed treason.
At the Louisiana rally, Trump read a tweet that the whistleblower's attorney, Mark Zaid, sent soon after Trump's inauguration in 2017 that said "a coup has started" and "impeachment will follow ultimately."
In a statement, Zaid warned that blowing the whistleblower's identity would spark threats and possible danger.
"Identifying any suspected name for the whistleblower will place that individual and their family at risk of serious harm," Zaid said. "We will not confirm or deny any name that is published or promoted by supporters of the president. Disclosure of any name undermines the integrity of the whistleblower system and will deter any future whistleblowers."