Whistleblower in Trump impeachment inquiry willing to answer GOP’s written questions, lawyer says
An attorney for the whistleblower who helped spark an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump said Sunday that his client would be willing to answer written questions from Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee without going through Democratic Chairman Adam Schiff.
Attorney Mark Zaid said in a series of tweets that he informed the committee’s ranking Republican, Rep. Devin Nunes of California, on Saturday that his client would answer written questions under oath and that the intelligence community’s inspector general could confirm the whistleblower’s identity without revealing it.
He said that committee rules make the Republican minority “beholden” to the Democratic majority.
“We, however, are not,” he said.
“Being a whistleblower is not a partisan job nor is impeachment an objective. That is not our role,” Zaid tweeted, adding that questions could not aim to unmask the whistleblower.
Trump and his Republican supporters in Congress have insisted that the impeachment process has been unfair. One of their primary complaints has been the whistleblower’s anonymity, along with the closed-door testimony and the inability of Trump’s attorneys to cross-examine witnesses.
Zaid decried Republican efforts to identify his client “which could jeopardize their safety, as well as that of their family.”
“We have directly engaged GOP as to the irrelevance of the whistleblower’s information and identity (including addressing any issue of bias), but with little effect in halting the attacks,” he said.
The president is accused of using military aid as leverage to pressure Ukraine into investigating former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading candidate in the Democratic presidential primary. The whistleblower had been told that Trump had spelled out his demands in a July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Trump has asserted that a rough transcript of the call shows that it was “perfect” and that there was no “quid pro quo” tying the aid to the investigations. But Democrats have said the call did exactly that and other witnesses have appeared to corroborate the whistleblower’s allegations.
“The Whistleblower got it sooo wrong that HE must come forward,” Trump tweeted Sunday. He also said the news media was helping to protect his or her identity “because there would be hell to pay.”
“Reveal the Whistleblower and end the Impeachment Hoax!” he demanded.
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“The Fake News Media is working hard so that information about the Whistleblower’s identity, which may be very bad for them and their Democrat partners, never reaches the Public,” he tweeted, without revealing how or why he thought the information would be damaging.
In September, Trump compared the whistleblower to a spy who he suggested should be punished for treason, generating outrage among whistleblower advocates who argue anonymity and other protections are critical to encouraging people to come forward.
Schiff had considered having the whistleblower testify from a secret location and with a disguised voice, but he decided against it because of Trump’s attacks.
“Much of what has been disclosed since the release of our client’s complaint actually exceeds the whistleblower’s knowledge of what transpired at the time the complaint was submitted,” Zaid said in a Washington Post op-ed, co-authored with attorney Andrew Bakaj. “Because our client has no additional information about the president’s call, there is no justification for exposing their identity and all the risks that would follow.”
Appearing on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said he hadn’t heard about Zaid’s offer but that he felt the whistleblower must do more than answer written questions.
“What I’m open to, when you’re talking about the removal of the president of the United States, undoing democracy, undoing what the American public had voted for, I think that individual should come before the committee,” he said.
McCarthy also said Schiff and his staff should be called to testify because “he is the only person who knows who this whistleblower is.”
Following McCarthy on “Face the Nation,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said there was no need for the whistleblower to testify because the concerns outlined in the complaint were supported by other testimony.
“The problem that Kevin has, and the Republicans have, is witness after witness after witness says, ‘Yes, I was there, I listened. Those are the facts,” Hoyer said.
“You wouldn’t call the whistleblower. What you call, is the people who were actually there, which is what Adam Schiff has done acting as an investigator,” he said.
Hoyer would not commit to a timeline for public hearings, saying they would begin “when Adam Schiff has determined that he is through what he needs to have, in terms of testimony and evidence.”
Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., said she expected the depositions from the interviews conducted so far to be made public by the end of the week, though she said that might not all be released on the same day.
“They’re going to be very telling to the American people. There’s no question now whether there was a quid pro quo,” she said.