Whistleblower disputes boil over in impeachment interview

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Transcripts launched Friday within the impeachment inquiry present Republicans and Democrats repeatedly skirmishing over GOP questions that appeared aimed toward drawing out the id of the whistleblower who filed the preliminary grievance towards President Donald Trump. Trump himself speculated that the whistleblower “should be sued. And maybe for treason.”

During questioning final month of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a high Trump nationwide safety adviser, Republicans repeatedly requested questions that would reveal the whistleblower’s id — resulting in sharp exchanges with Democrats and Vindman’s lawyer.

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., lastly intervened, saying: “It is the ruling of the chair that the witness shall not identify employees, detailees or contractors of the intelligence agency, or provide information that may lead to the revelation of the identity of the whistleblower, someone whose life has been put at risk.”

Democrats “are determined to protect the right of that whistleblower to remain anonymous,” Schiff mentioned, “and we will not allow bad-faith efforts to out this whistleblower.”

Vindman’s lawyer, Michael Volkov, mentioned his consumer wouldn’t reply questions on how many individuals, apart from State Department official George Kent, he instructed about issues he had over Trump’s July 25 name with the president of Ukraine. The name, and Trump’s request for a “favor” from Ukraine are the premise of the impeachment inquiry.

Pressed repeatedly, Volkov mentioned of his consumer: “Look, he came here. He tells you he’s not the whistleblower, okay? He says he feels uncomfortable about it. Try and respect his feelings at this point.”

An individual then recognized solely as “voice” interjects: “We’re uncomfortable impeaching the president.”

Volkov then shot again: “What I’m telling you right now is you have to protect the identity of a whistleblower. I get that there may be political overtones. You guys go do what you got to do, but do not put this man ln the middle of it.”

Volkov added that he had “never seen either party ever try to out a whistleblower in the same concerted way that is going on in here.”

That prompted argument with Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., over the place the GOP was going with their questions.

“You know what? I know what you’re going to say,” Volkov mentioned angrily. “I already know what you’re going to do, okay? And I don’t want to hear the Fox News questions, okay? Yeah, yeah, that’s exactly right.”

Zeldin then tried to guarantee Volkov that Republicans weren’t trying to out the whistleblower.

“That’s not true. I don’t believe you,” Volkov retorted.

U.S. whistleblower legal guidelines exist to guard the id and careers of people that deliver ahead accusations of wrongdoing by authorities officers. Lawmakers in each events have traditionally backed these protections.

The Associated Press sometimes doesn’t reveal the id of whistleblowers.

Trump and different Republicans have blasted the media for not reporting the identify of an individual recognized in conservative circles because the whistleblower. So far Trump has averted utilizing the identify publicly.

Schiff repeatedly sparred with Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, the highest Republican on the House Oversight Committee, one of many three committees conducting the closed-door interviews. Jordan was named Friday to the House Intelligence panel, the place he and Schiff are prone to do fight with one another at public hearings scheduled subsequent week.

“Mr. Jordan, the minority may not care about protecting the whistleblower, but we in the majority do,” Schiff mentioned.

“We fully care about protecting the whistleblower. In fact, you’re the only one who knows who these people are who started this whole thing,” Jordan shot again, referring to early contacts the whistleblower had with Democratic staffers on the Intelligence panel.

At one other level, as Schiff once more urged a GOP lawyer to not try and “out” the whistleblower, Jordan interjected: “Mr. Chairman, his lawyer can serve as his lawyer. You can just serve as the chairman. We can ask the questions we want to ask.”

Schiff replied: “Mr. Jordan, we have an obligation to protect whistleblowers.”

Later, Steve Castor, a lawyer for Republicans on the Oversight panel, requested Vindman straight: “Is the whistleblower ——-?” The final a part of the query is blacked out on the transcript.

Schiff interrupted and Vindman by no means answered.

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Associated Press author Matthew Lee contributed to this story.

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