News & Politics

Meet the Attorneys Representing the Whistleblower Who Helped Launch the Impeachment Inquiry

Lawyer Andrew Bakaj is "one of the best people suited for this representation," says his co-counsel Mark Zaid.

Photo courtesy Creative Commons.

We don’t know the identity of the whistleblower who reportedly raised the alarm about Donald Trump‘s phone call with the Ukrainian president (you know, the one that finally kickstarted an impeachment inquiry). But we at least know the identity of their lawyers.

Andrew Bakaj is lead counsel, while Mark Zaid is co-counsel. Both are well known national security attorneys. In an interview with Washingtonian, Zaid says the representation first came to Bakaj as a “a typical case referral,” and then Bakaj brought Zaid in to help. Before Bakaj founded his own firm, Compass Rose Legal Group, he was an investigator in the inspector general’s offices at both the CIA and the Department of Defense, working on probes into whistleblower reprisals. “He actually wrote the CIA’s internal rules on whistleblowing. He’s one of the best people suited for this representation,” says Zaid. Though Bakaj is not yet 40, “He has some of the most worthwhile experience of any whistleblower lawyer ever. I’ve been doing it 2.5 times as long, but the experience he has from the inside is so valuable and makes such a difference,” Zaid adds.

Not only that, Bakaj has himself been a whistleblower. It’s how he and Zaid initially met, because Bakaj retained Zaid as his own counsel. Back when Bakaj worked for the CIA inspector general in 2014, he was retaliated against by superiors who wanted to out whistleblowers within the agency, according to a Yahoo News story from earlier this month. At the time, per the article: “The intelligence community’s inspector general, which conducts independent audits and reviews across the spy agencies, was investigating concerns about potential evidence manipulation at the CIA inspector general’s office, issues that Bakaj and others, some of whom still remain anonymous, had raised.”

Bakaj also served at the State Department, and worked for Democratic senators Daniel Moynihan, Charles Schumer, and Hillary Clinton earlier in his career.

Earlier today, House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff said the whistleblower would like to testify before his committee. However, Zaid would not comment on the likelihood or timing of such testimony. Of the representation, he would say only that, as with any case, he and Bakaj are trying “to ensure the client stays within the four corners of the law to ensure an opportunity for the system to work.” He says that hopefully the public will never know the identity of the whistleblower. “It’s not about the whistleblower. It’s about the allegation. If the whistleblower can remain anonymous and the allegations are investigated properly, it means the system worked.”

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Senior Editor

Marisa M. Kashino joined Washingtonian in 2009 as a staff writer, and became a senior editor in 2014. She oversees the magazine’s real estate and home design coverage, and writes long-form feature stories. She was a 2020 Livingston Award finalist for her two-part investigation into a wrongful conviction stemming from a murder in rural Virginia.