Alexander Vindman, a U.S. Army lieutenant colonel who serves as the director for European Affairs on the National Security Council, refused to tell lawmakers during Tuesday’s impeachment hearing who he spoke to within the intelligence community about President Trump’s controversial Ukraine phone call, fearing he would out the whistleblower.
Lt. Col. Vindman came forward with concerns over Mr. Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, which was the impetus for the whistleblower’s complaint that launched the impeachment inquiry.
Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee, asked the witness during Tuesday’s hearing who he spoke to about the phone call, and Lt. Col. Vindman responded that he had spoken to Department of State Assistant Secretary George Kent and another individual from the intelligence community, but stopped short of naming that person.
Mr. Nunes reminded the witness he testified in a previous deposition that he did not know the whistleblower.
“How is it possible for you to name these people and then out the whistleblower?” Mr. Nunez quizzed.
“I’ve been advised not to provide any specifics with regards to who I’ve spoken to within the intelligence community,” Lt. Col. Vindman responded.
Rep. Adam Schiff, the committee’s chairman, jumped in to block the Republican questioning, saying it is running afoul of whistleblower protection laws.
“We need to protect the whistleblower. I want to make sure there is no effort to out the whistleblower through these proceedings,” the California Democrat said.
Republicans have tried to subpoena the whistleblower but Democrats, who hold the majority, have blocked that attempt.
Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican, also took a shot at Lt. Col. Vindman over his refusal to say who he spoke to about the phone call, noting other witnesses have shared that information with the committee.
Lt. Col. Vindman again declined to disclose the individual, and Mr. Schiff again jumped in, saying the whistleblower must be protected.
“You have said — even though nobody believes you — you don’t know who the whistleblower is,” Mr. Jordan said to Mr. Schiff.
“Your question should be addressed to the witness,” Mr. Schiff shot back.
Republican lawmakers have accused the chairman and his staff of communicating with the whistleblower prior to the formal complaint being filed.
Lt. Col. Vindman, a decorated soldier, is viewed by Democrats as adding military credibility to allegations that Mr. Trump risked national security for political gain when he pushed for a corruption probe targeting political rival Joseph R. Biden and his son Hunter Biden.
“I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen, and I was worried about the implications to the U.S. government’s support of Ukraine,” he said in his closed-door deposition. “This would all undermine U.S. national security.”
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