Frustrated Republicans erupted Sunday after Rep. Adam B. Schiff rebuffed their request to have the whistleblower testify at the House impeachment hearings as Democrats sought to keep the anonymous informant’s identity a poorly guarded secret.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham warned that if the California Democrat refuses to call the whistleblower at the public hearings starting Wednesday, “this thing is dead on arrival in the Senate.”
“It’s impossible to bring this case forward in my view fairly without us knowing who the whistleblower is and having a chance to cross-examine them,” said Mr. Graham, South Carolina Republican, on Fox’s “Sunday Morning Futures.”
Mr. Schiff, the House Intelligence Committee chairman, rejected Saturday two names on the GOP’s list of requested witnesses — the whistleblower and Hunter Biden — arguing that any testimony offered by the unnamed government official would be “redundant and unnecessary.”
Mr. Schiff also said that a public appearance would put the individual’s “personal safety at grave risk” in his letter to ranking member Rep. Devin Nunes, who submitted Saturday the GOP’s eight-name witness request list.
“The Committee will also not facilitate efforts by President Trump and his allies in Congress to threaten, intimidate, and retaliate against the whistleblower who courageously raised the initial alarm,” Mr. Schiff said in his Saturday letter. “It remains the duty of the Intelligence Committee to protect whistleblowers, and until recently, this was a bipartisan priority.”
Republicans countered that the president, like any accused American, has the right to confront his accuser, in this case the whistleblower, who filed a complaint about the July 25 phone call with the Ukrainian president in which Mr. Trump asked for a corruption investigation into former Vice President Joseph R. Biden and his son Hunter.
While the name of the “whistleblower” has been reported by several news outlets, starting Oct. 30 with Real Clear Investigations, Mr. Nunes pointed out that there is no official knowledge of the person’s identity, affiliations or motivations.
“As of now, this whistleblower exists only because Adam Schiff and the Democrats told us, the inspector general told us, and a lawyer told us,” the California Republican said Sunday on Fox News. “We don’t know if this person actually exists and what their knowledge really is.”
The possible identity of the whistleblower is also widespread on social media, although Facebook said Friday that it would scrub all mentions of the individual’s name on its platform, citing its “coordinating harm policy.”
‘Fair and impartial firing squad’
Mr. Graham accused House Democrats of trying to hide the whistleblower’s reported connections to two staunch Trump critics — Mr. Biden and former CIA Director John O. Brennan — as well as his communications with Mr. Schiff’s staff before the complaint was filed.
“The whistleblower is foundational to what they’re doing in the House, and the fact that they don’t want to call him tells you everything you need to know about how valid this effort is to impeach the president,” Mr. Graham said. “It is impossible to conduct an impeachment inquiry when the chief complaining witness is unknown to the president, not subject to cross-examination.”
“It would blow them out of the water if in fact the whistleblower was connected to the Democratic candidate and came from the CIA world that’s been trying to destroy the Trump presidency before he got elected,” Mr. Graham said. “That’s why they don’t want you to know who this person is.”
Rep. Eric Swalwell, the California Democrat who sits on the House Intelligence Committee, defended the leadership’s decision to exclude the whistleblower from testifying on what he called Mr. Trump’s “extortion scheme.”
“It’s important that these witnesses raise their right hands and take questions from both Republicans and Democrats,” Mr. Swalwell said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “The president is going to get that. It’s important that the Republicans be afforded the opportunity to suggest witnesses that we should call, and that we determine whether that is relevant.”
Mr. Trump has insisted there was no quid pro quo with Ukraine, while Republicans have sought information on then-Vice President Biden’s push for the firing of a Ukrainian prosecutor and the seat of his son on the board of Burisma, a gas company under investigation by the government.
“If you don’t find out who the whistleblower is, the whole thing is illegitimate, because without the whistleblower, knowing who they are, you really can’t evaluate the credibility of the entire accusation,” Mr. Graham said.
Sen. John Kennedy, Louisiana Republican, said House Democrats were making a mistake by excluding Republican-requested witnesses.
“I think that Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi’s decision and Adam Schiff’s decision to prevent the Republicans from calling their own witnesses in the live testimony is just doubling down on stupid,” said Mr. Kennedy on “Face the Nation.”
As the inquiry proceeds, “the American people, I think, are going to look at this and go, ‘I get it,’” he said. “They’re going to give the president a fair and impartial firing squad.”
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