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tv   Washington Journal Stephen Kohn  CSPAN  July 30, 2019 10:40pm-11:13pm EDT

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it is possible senators will also begin debate on a house passed a budget deal that also suspends the debt limit for two years. on c-span3, the senate armed services committee considers the nomination of vice admiral micro -- michael killed ray to be chief of naval operations. that is followed by another hearing on train safety with the head of the federal railroad administration. is chairman of the board of directors at the national whistleblower cente, joining us on national whistleblower appreciation today. why is today the national whistleblower appreciation day? in 1778, at the height of the united states revolution, the u.s. congress passed our first whistleblower law. whistleblowers,
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sailors, and marines, had criticized the commander of the u.s. navy. including criticizing him for mistreating british prisoners. this is embarrassing to the u.s. government, but think about it. the founding fathers put everything on the line. this was not an election or paul. if they lost the revolution, they would get hung for treason. in the middle of that's revolution, they paused, and they said every inhabitant of the united states should report waste, fraud, and corruption to congress and appropriate authorities, even if it barest the new government -- it embarrassed the new government. they passed the law and voted money for the lawyers for the whistleblowers who had been thrown in jail. and they released all of the ,apers that were controversial that were embarrassing to the government. the whistleblowers won the case.
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1778, so this30, is not some token day. this is a day for every american to sit back and say, whoa, whistleblowers have been with us for a long time and they have done an incredible job. host: we use the term dead -- did we use the term whistleblower in 1778? guest: that came in the late 60's and early 70's. host: why then? guest: no one knows the origin. theas in literature in 20's, 30's, and 40's, some detective books. they say it comes from the british police blowing the whistle to get support. nobody knows. host: you have written a handful -- handbook for would be whistleblowers. rule number one in the handbook, which we have on the desk here with us, you say is for whistleblowers to use the legal tools available to them today. what are those legal tools for would be whistleblowers? guest: there has been a
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revolution. most people don't know it. whistleblowers now have some of the most powerful anticorruption tools available ever. there is nothing like it. whistleblowers can go anonymously, confidentially, can report the largest fraud in banking, securities, commodity exchange, government contracting. and, they can qualify for financial rewards, which means you don't have to wait until you are fired and the jury gives you a judgment because your life has been ruined. if your information is good, and leads to a successful enforcement, you can get a percentage. it is working. in 2018, the u.s. government paid whistleblowers over $800 million in rewards, and no one even knows it. host: who is bradley birkenfeld? guest: he was a banker who worked in switzerland for the time, ubs.
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he was the first major bank whistleblower. thousands of americans had illegal, hidden accounts in switzerland, hiding their money, evading taxes. he was the first one, it whistleblower, who came into the united states, turned in the information, triggering the largest and most successful fraud prosecution, i think, ever. americans turned themselves into a voluntary amnesty program. over 16 billion in sanctions collected through the swiss bank program. ubs had to pay a $780 million birkenfeld received the largest whistleblower reward given to any individual, $104 million. you may say this guy got $104 million for blowing the whistle? butts, why did they do it? i spoke to the -- but, why did
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they do it? was 104 million dollars pennies to the dollar. it was advertising to every banker in the world that if you turn in your american clients who have illegal accounts who are money laundering or hiding their wealth, ripping off the taxpayer, you can get a reward. host: when was the first time we paid a whistleblower? guest: that is amazing. laws,rliest whistleblower means in the name of the king, were passed by the first congress of the united states, in 1789-1790. you have to go back in history. at the time of the american revolution, when they passed this resolution on july 30, there was a concept of bringing the people into government. use the power of the people for democracy, so among the very
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first laws passed by the u.s. tan, in theere qui name of the king, it was empowering people to act with the powers of government and they could collect a reward. if they turned in criminals and obtained a sanction, their information was solid, they could get up to 50% of what was collected by the government. host: whistleblowing is the topic for the next half-hour on the "washington journal." you can join us in the conversation. phone lines, democrats are (202) 748-8000. republicans are (202) 748-8001. independents are (202) 748-8002. setting aside a special line as well for whistleblowers. if you have done it or thinking (202) 748-8003.
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explain what the national whistleblower center is. guest: we will work with the broad amount of people. anyone could be dropped, so it is essential that people inside of these criminal conspiracies, people with the inside knowledges of the corruption, can come forward. host: what is the legal process if you decide to become a whistleblower? guest: now, we go into the world of chaos. this is why a road the handbook. there are 50 different whistleblower laws in the united states. each sector of the economy has their own. there are certain superpowerful laws -- super powerful laws. these are really good. then, you have some that aren't so good. it is as simple as that.
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the process is that you have to find out what your rights are under the law that covers you. then, try to find the best one. new: this is the whistleblower's handbook, was there an old one? guest: the first one came out and 2010-2 thousand 11, but it became the new whistleblower's 2010-2011,cause -- but it became the new whistleblower's handbook because the new is completely different. it is the opposite of the stereotypes, working with the government, being confidential, being anonymous, being key sources of corruption. , fraud in, tax fraud contracting, foreign bribery, and partnering with what we have now come to see as really good and honest government investigators, and clobbering these large corporations that are engaged in wrongdoing.
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host: i wonder why you picked a bank of microphones as the picture on the cover. guest: the first one had that, and it was more of the old, you know, whistleblower going to the press. large publicens, a disclosure. now, i would have someone with dark sunglasses in the corner. host: rhode island is up first. christina's democrats. good morning. caller: good morning. good topic. i was watching a hearing on the whistleblower for the v.a. a couple of weeks ago, and thank god we do have whistleblowers, but they do need more protection and follow-through. think,und there was, i sixto $8 million missing -- dollars to $8 million missing from the suicide for the military. that was one of the statements the whistleblower had brought
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up. so, they need a lot of oversight and support, especially the corruption going on in the v.a. right now. host: so the v.a. -- guest: so the v.a. is one of the worst agencies for whistleblowers. more whistleblowers come out of the v.a. than any other federal agency. also, the v.a. pretty much has the worst whistleblower laws. federal employees are at the lower end of protection. hold onto your seat. there is a board that is supposed to protect federal employee whistleblowers, but there are now no members on this board. the board has not been able to issue a decision for two years. of ave a case of whistleblower from the army corps of engineers who blew the whistle on fraud, won her case years ago, but we appealed one issue because we wanted to win everything this whistleblower
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deserved, and it stalled at this board with no members, no ability to go to federal court for years. today, it is almost schizophrenia. if you are blowing the whistle on security fraud, tax fraud, or foreign bribery, you have fantastic whistleblower laws. but, if you are in the v.a., you have the worst. we are trying to -- the national whistleblower center is trying to fix that. all the whistleblowers deserve the best. host: lawrence is in florida. an independent. good morning. caller: i was wondering about, as a whistleblower, you have to be a part of a company or can andbe a private citizen, you also have to have absolute proof of this, right? guest: you can be a private citizen. remember, the oldest -- the 1778 law calls upon all the
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inhabitants of the united states. the qui tam law speaks of empowering the citizen. as it turns out, most of your whistleblowing comes from employees, because they know where the corruption is within large institutions. it also comes from government where employees know that taking a bribe or who is committing malfeasance. you don't have to be a government employee. if you have original information about illegal activity, you can qualify and you can qualify for the superduper whistleblower laws. host: a couple of names to throw at you. edward snowden, chelsea manning, dooley and assigns. guest: -- julian assange. guest: julian assigned is in a different category. the other two are whistleblowers because they made a disclosure of information that was of public interest in included official wrongdoing.
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the problem with both of those cases is that they went about it in a way that was illegal, and they got themselves into trouble. to educate is whistleblowers on how to do it lawfully, how to protect themselves, how to accomplish their goals without going to jail or getting fired. host: what are the rules for members of the military and intelligence committee? you went over the rules for v.a. employees. guest: the military has interesting whistleblower laws that lets you go to congress. if you remember, a whistleblower came up out of a prison and that whistleblower went to congress and was protected. there was a law that we helped write and push forward many years ago. going to congress was also in the 1778 law, they protected the whistleblowers in 1778 because they went to congress. that is one of the safest places
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to go, even if you are in intelligence. there's another law that whistleblowers need to be aware of, which is obstruction of justice. the law says that if you have information about a crime, and you go to federal law enforcement and report it, any person, if you are subject to retaliation, that person who retaliates against you should go to prison for 10 years. the federal obstruction of justice statute creates a public policy and sends a message that, if you want to blow the whistle, one safe place to go is federal law enforcement. another safe place to go is congress. use the superduper laws, and these are really powerful and effective and have very specified procedures. host: we set aside a special line for whistleblowers on national whistleblower appreciation day, (202) 748-8003 is that number.
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otherwise, lines for democrats, republicans, and independents as usual. melvin is calling in on the whistleblower line out of florida. melvin, go ahead. outer: i was trying to find if the whistleblowers would also cover homeowners associations, because some of the things that are going on are definitely outside of the scales of what or notld think is legal considered discrimination. guest: sure. state has some whistleblower laws. some are strong in some states, new jersey has an excellent -- new jersey has excellent laws, district of columbia, california. other states have bad laws like alabama and new york. but, that is where you would go, and for something like a homeowners association, most
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likely, you would find support under state whistleblower laws. the other thing you would want to look at is, is there any government money going into these entities? that's another very good place to look at, misspending up government money, contracts, or grants. if that is the case, the odds are that you will have a good whistleblower law. host: you talked at the beginning about how much money has been paid to whistleblowers in the past year. what part of the government had the most whistleblowers? guest: the v.a. has the most whistleblowers, by far. every other government agency has some. has had al government terrible track record on whistleblowing, terrible. one of the reasons is, it is kind of like this. at gm, the whistleblower law for the auto industry, what do you think it will look like? congress is essentially the employer of the federal government employee. they have written the worst laws
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for federal government employees . it is terrible. the fact that this board, there is no member of it, it means no whistleblower retaliation case can even be decided, let alone ruled against. it is horrendous. host: out of tennessee, this is red, a democrat. good morning. caller: hi, how are you? host: doing well, go ahead. caller: i work for the federal government 37 years -- worked for the federal government 37 years. i'm 72 years old and have been retired 17 years. 1980's, i ratted out a personnel making decisions -- the guy was a holy roller. he was making personnel warpedns based on his religious beliefs, and i found
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thatater, years later, they acted upon this and i found ,ut all of the details later on and it was really funny. all kinds of nuts working for the federal government, and they got unlimited power. host: that is red in tennessee. the federal government, federal employees have a lot of power. a lot of power over a lot of people. consequently, whistleblower laws are essential and are essential in the federal government as they are in state government and big companies. employeesh federal have a hard time of it, whistleblowers are still the number one source of all fraud
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detection, period. every study shows it. that is why the laws have gotten better, that is why they have created these strong laws and anonymity. when they look at fraud detection, fraud is designed to be hidden. a good bribe, no one knows ever happened, so you need the insider. what they found, as they have increased these whistleblower laws and made them stronger and stronger, billions have flown into the treasury and people have gone to prison, accountability has gone up, and the decision-makers -- and believe me, these are not pro-whistleblower people, they this is the way to stop it. throughout the entire economy, federal government or not, whistleblowers are number one fraud detection. host: you say whistleblowers have a hard time of it. haven twitter says do you examples of successful whistleblowing where the career of the whistleblower was not ruined? guest: that is a great question.
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we have dealt with people whose careers have been ruined, day in and day out. i'm certain there are many honest employees, managers, and people who have blown the whistle and thrived. i'm certain of that, i just have not seen it. i have seen the other side, very ugly. host: to virginia, kimberly, an independent. in morning. caller: hi. i'm one of the federal employees working at the pentagon who attempted to blow the whistle with retaliated -- and who was retaliated against and tried to work through the system. i suffered horrendous retaliation, my career, my andtation was all ruined, my case is still floundering through the eeo system. i attended to get a lawyer who was crooked and took me for my money.
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i probably will never see my money. it was probably a my retirement that i have lost and i will never see it. it is not that easy to find help , especially when you are going whatst -- in line guest: you are -- going against cs's. guest: what you are talking about, if the laws are weak, it is hard to get a good lawyer. oftenwyers you find are charging and can't win the case anyway. the law is terrible. i want to say this to all of the viewers. you have to understand what happens. if a whistleblower accuses a , and thef malfeasance whistleblower's rights, they have evidence they messed it up, the manager has two choices, discredit the whistleblower, retaliate, or admit they messed up and get fired, or get demoted.
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the natural reaction of supervision in management to a whistleblower disclosure is almost always retaliation. defensive is to be expected. the good, modern laws understand that and understand this is a , becausen situation the manager has a lot to lose if the whistleblower is right. this woman who called in, this is the story time and time again because the managers are aligned with hr, have massive resources, the agencies back them up. it is a cultural thing, and the whistleblower is on the receiving end. only a federal employees get real laws, real protection, will these problems and. host: kimberly used -- end. used two federal used two federal terms, she is in the eeo system and going against sec. guest: essie -- ses.
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eeo is oneses and pathway to get your case resolved. you are a woman or minority and are a whistleblower. you can generally use the eeo process. either way, the system for federal employee's is broken. host: two niagara falls, new york, richard, republican. caller: good morning. thank you for c-span. , remember watching on netflix a program under dirty money, and it was during the obama era and how drug cartels were laundering money in the bank of america. i was wondering, whatever happened to that situation? whatever happened to that situation? guest: it only gets worse. i have a case right now, $240 billion money laundering, bank
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of america, deutsche bank, citibank, jp morgan, dansk a bank, allnska administration. it doesn't matter. money laundering is a gigantic problem, a gigantic problem. that is where people hide who owns the money in the flesh it out read money laundering remains one of the top issues. we are working with whistleblowers on it. in 2018, congress unanimously improved the irs whistleblower law, and it now covers criminal money laundering. host: are there new changes to federal whistleblower laws that are working their way through congress now? guest: yeah. they are hoping to push through legislation to help federal employees. it has stalled out to right now. they need access to federal courts. every good whistleblower law lets the whistleblower get to a judge and jury that is
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independent, at some point. federal employees cannot. they are the only groups in the whole country that cannot. host: why not? guest: because in 1978, when they passed those laws, the civil service reform act, they excluded them from federal court. why did that happen? it was the federal government itself, congress and the executive, they are the employer. they want to control their workers. it is like gm passing a whistleblower bill, it won't happen. it is up to the american people to demand these laws go through. host: you say it stalled, why? guest: because we have been trying to get it. we've had it once through the house, once through the senate, and every time, it gets blocked. we know why, the bureaucracy, the general councils. they gang up and put pressure against somebody. host: to mark washington, d.c., a democrat, good morning. caller: good morning.
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i am an attorney and have always considered -- i have a couple of friends that have a billion-dollar prospect that they are considering. ,y main question for you is one, if a relater matter is not picked up by the doj, is his name made public? any have you noticed effects due to the influence of money in politics for an executive agency to determine whether to take or not take up a key town matter? host: hang on the line while we get the answer. host: the answer he used is the word used in the original false claims act signed into law by abraham lincoln on march 2, 18 63 at the height of the american revolution. similar to the revolutionary
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was president and congress looking to the american people to enforce these anticorruption laws. that was a term they used for whistleblower in 1863. the question is, what is the influence? money and politics, connections, et cetera. what we have found is the biggest problem in the qui tam area, is when the federal government employee colludes with the contractor, the qui tam law allows you to sue the contractor for government fraud, collusion, what you a contracts find is that the federal bureaucracy doesn't like those cases. they don't want to pursue a case where the federal government itself, where employees facilitate it. and there has been a movement to try to get federal employee rights to file these qui tam
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false claims so they can identify these rotten apples. in the world of whistleblowing, the biggest weakness today are the rights of federal employees and they have been stalled out. but the qui tam law is working remarkably well through all administrations. host: are you still on the line with us? caller: i'm still here. host: how often do you do whistleblower work? caller: are not involved in whistleblower work myself. i studied in law school. i knew a couple of individuals who had some very large prospective -- isst: and my recommendation to pursue it. because the rank-and-file attorneys at the department of justice and the u.s. attorneys offices that actually work these cases are doing a great job. they are dedicated. they are honest. and i would never say that.
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because we advocate for whistleblowers. it's only because we've worked with them, we've experienced it. that's why i talk about the new whistleblowing. it's a whole new era when the whistleblower can work with effective prosecutors to get justice. you actually raised another question about cam the qui tam whistleblower remain confidential. the answer to that is mixed. in most cases no. because you file in federal court. it's originally confidential. it's under seal. it eventually gets released pre-but the d.c. circuit judge last friday issued a very important decision about the rights of whistleblowers to remain anonymous and they set up a standard for anonymity. they reversed the tax court that did not grant a whistleblower anonymity. and that standard where there is good cause, you can get
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anonymity. host: one last call for you from medina, new york. eddie is an independent. good morning. caller: morning. -- have to to know do with everything it's going on in america all around the world? host: what was? burridge?ild a where they get together every year and go to secret meetings and decide what's going to go on in the country? host: we will hold off on secret societies. guest: what i want to say about that is my experience and 35 years working with these whistleblower laws. whatever conspiracy and problems may be out there, these laws are working. and that's the message that i want to give. falses, the security, the claims act. they are working. they need to be supported. they need to be encouraged. we need to protect them.
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stephen kohn is chairman of the board of directors at the national whistleblower center. he is the author of the book the new whistleblowers handbook. announcer: c-span's washington journal, live every day with news and policy issues that impact you. coming up wednesday morning, we are getting your reaction to the democratic presidential debate. join the conversation all morning with your phone calls, facebook comments and tweets. watch c-span's washington journal live at 7:00 a.m. eastern wednesday morning. can be sure to watch washington journal thursday morning following the second night of the democratic presidential candidates debate of the 2020 race. announcer: washington journal mugs are available at c-span's new online store. go to check out the washington journal
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mugs and see all of they c-span products. arkansas republican senator tom cotton sat down for a conversation on immigration and national security issues. this event was hosted by the center for immigration studies. host: good morning. mark: good morning. my name is mark krikorian, i'm executive director of the center for immigration studies, and we have done a series of interviews with important players in the immigration issue, whether in congress or in the administration. this morning's guest is senator


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