California Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff and other Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee are considering masking the identity of the Trump whistleblower during any potential interview out of what they say are concerns that Republicans will leak the identity of the individual.
Three sources told The Washington Post that the committee is considering interviewing the whistleblower, a CIA analyst, with his identity and voice masked and away from Capitol Hill.
If successful, the maneuver is sure to heighten tension between Democrats and Republicans on the committee. Congressional Republicans have accused Schiff of leaking information throughout the Trump-Russia probe to propel the debunked theory that the Trump campaign conspired with the Kremlin. Former Rep. Trey Gowdy speculated that the CIA might stop giving Schiff information because he “leaks like a screen door on a submarine,” in a March 31 interview on Fox News.
The whistleblower filed a complaint on Aug. 12 that focused on President Donald Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The whistleblower said he did not directly witness the events described in the complaint or listen in on the phone call. Instead, he relayed details from conversations with White House officials he said were concerned about Trump’s remarks in the call.
A transcript of the call, which the White House released on Sept. 25, showed that Trump asked Zelensky to help investigate Ukraine’s possible involvement in 2016 election meddling, as well as whether former Vice President Joe Biden pressured Ukraine to drop an investigation of a company linked to his son.
Trump has defended the call as “perfect.” But Democrats have used the transcript and the whistleblower complaint itself to launch an impeachment inquiry of the Republican.
At least one member of Schiff’s staff already knows the identity of the whistleblower. The whistleblower contacted an aide to Schiff prior to filing his complaint, The New York Times reported on Oct. 2. The aide advised the whistleblower to contact the intelligence community inspector general and also briefed Schiff on what the whistleblower was alleging.
Though Schiff was at least vaguely aware of the complaint, he played coy in interviews by implying that he had no prior knowledge about the complaint or whistleblower.
A Republican source familiar with the matter speculated that Schiff could be raising concerns about the identity of the whistleblower as a way of “laying the groundwork” to announce that the whistleblower will no longer be testifying, “and to blame that on Republicans.”
“Schiff may not want the whistleblower to testify anymore because the whistleblower would have to reveal more details about this cooperation with Schiff,” the source told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Mark Zaid, a lawyer for the whistleblower, told The Post that the legal team hopes that meetings with the whistleblower “will have the same conditions from us for both Republicans and Democrats.”
“We are not playing partisan games, and our primary concern is the protection of our client,” he said.
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