Devin Nunes, the lead Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, attempted Tuesday to have a witness out the whistle-blower whose concerns about Donald Trump’s July phone call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky led Democrats to launch the House impeachment inquiry.
But Nunes’s questioning of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, an aide on the National Security Council who was listening in on the Trump-Zelensky call, was slapped down by committee chairman Adam Schiff. That led Nunes to label the proceedings an “impeachment inquisition.”
Nunes began his line of questioning by asking Vindman if he shared information about the July 25 phone call with anyone outside the White House. Vindman said as a part of his mandate to “coordinate interagency policy,” he spoke to two “cleared U.S. government officials” about the call. One, he said, was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent. The other, he would only say is an “individual in the intelligence committee.”
When Nunes asked him what agency the individual is from, Schiff interjected. “I want to make sure there is no attempt to out the whistle-blower through the use of these proceedings,” he said. Then he advised Vindman not to answer if he thought he may reveal the identity of the whistle-blower.
Nunes pressed Vindman, who claimed to not know the identity of the whistle-blower, but Vindman’s lawyer stepped in and said his client would not be answering the question.
Revealing the identity of the whistle-blower is an obsession of many of Trump’s supporters, but like Nunes, they seem determined not to do it themselves. At least most of them do. Last week, Kentucky senator Rand Paul named the person many believe to be the whistle-blower.