House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) clashed with Republicans on Tuesday after it appeared that Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the panel’s ranking member, was trying to zero in on the identity of the whistleblower who sparked an impeachment inquiry into President Trump.
Nunes questioned Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a Ukraine specialist on the White House National Security Council (NSC), during a public hearing on the anonymous whistleblower who initially brought up concerns around a phone call between Trump and Ukraine’s president in July.
Vindman said he had had discussions with two officials who were “properly cleared individuals with a need-to-know” basis for such information.
Vindman identified a member in the intelligence community and George Kent, a senior State Department official who testified publicly last week.
Nunes then asked which intelligence agency the whistleblower works in, at which point Schiff intervened.
Schiff noted that he wanted to “make sure there is no effort to out the whistleblower through the use of these proceedings.”
“If the witness has a good-faith belief that this may reveal the identity of the whistleblower, this is not the purpose that we are here for, and I want to advise the witness accordingly,” the California Democrat added.
Several Republican lawmakers seated in the public viewing gallery immediately reacted with an “Ah ha,” to Schiff’s interjection.
Nunes protested, saying it was the Republicans’ time to question the witness, but both Schiff and Vindman’s lawyer said they would not participate in efforts to identify the person who first came forward with allegations about Trump’s July 25 phone call.
Vindman said that he did not know the identity of the whistleblower, but also noted that he had been “advised not to answer specific questions about members of the intelligence community.”
Rep. Devin Nunes, Rep. Adam Schiff and Lt. Col. Vindman’s counsel clash over line of questioning about identity of whistleblower.
— ABC News (@ABC) November 19, 2019
Nunes told Vindman that he could either “answer my question or plead the Fifth,” referring to the Fifth Amendment.
Vindman still refused to identify the whistleblower.
At one point, Vindman also corrected Nunes on his title after the California Republican addressed him as “Mr. Vindman.”
“Ranking member, it’s Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, please,” he said.
Republicans have repeatedly called for the whistleblower’s identity to be revealed and for the person to give a deposition, requests that Schiff blocked last week.