The head of the House Intelligence Committee said Wednesday that Democrats would do everything in their power to protect the identity of the whistleblower at the heart of the Ukraine investigation, tossing cold water on President Trump‘s recent request to interview the anonymous source.
“The whistleblower has the right under statute to remain anonymous,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) told reporters in the Capitol. “And we will do everything in our power to make sure that that whistleblower is protected [and] that that whistleblower’s preferences in terms of their anonymity are respected.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) piled on, warning of the national security implications if the whistleblower’s identity was exposed.
“Protecting whistleblowers who see wrongdoing of any kind in our government is essential,” she said. “The president probably doesn’t realize how dangerous his statements are when he says he wants to expose who the whistleblower is and those who may have given the whistleblower that information.”
The comments came a day after Trump took to Twitter to blast the whistleblower, whose complaint surrounding Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has sparked a firestorm on Capitol Hill and stands at the center of the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry into allegations of presidential misconduct.
Trump on the call had pressed Zelensky to investigate corruption allegations involving former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. Trump also suggested he would withhold U.S. military aid to Ukraine if Zelensky didn’t comply.
“So if the so-called ‘Whistleblower’ has all second hand information, and almost everything he has said about my ‘perfect’ call with the Ukrainian President is wrong (much to the embarrassment of Pelosi & Schiff), why aren’t we entitled to interview & learn everything about the Whistleblower, and also the person who gave all of the false information to him,” Trump tweeted Tuesday.
Schiff has been in ongoing negotiations to have the anonymous source testify before the Intelligence Committee about the details of the complaint. Schiff over the weekend said he’s reached a tentative agreement to secure that appearance, although a source familiar with the whistleblower’s situation said Tuesday that no deal has been finalized.
Many of Trump’s Republican allies have rushed to his defense, joining the president in questioning the political motivations of the whistleblower and seeking to make public the source’s identity.
But some prominent Republicans with deep experience in the nation’s whistleblower laws — most notably Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) — have stressed the importance of protecting the source’s identity.
Schiff on Wednesday agreed, suggesting Trump is trying to shift the blame on the whistleblower to distract from the president’s own legal and political troubles. There’s nothing in the whistleblower’s complaint, Schiff said, that wasn’t corroborated in the White House memo, released last week, outlining the details of the Zelensky call.
“Let’s not make any mistake here; the president wants to make this this all about the whistleblower and suggest people that come forward with evidence of his wrongdoing are somehow treasonous, and should be treated as traitors and spies,” Schiff said. “This is a blatant effort to intimidate witnesses. It’s an incitement to violence.”