Rep. Adam Schiff suggested Monday that any lawmaker who identifies the alleged Trump whistleblower during public congressional hearings could be subject to a House ethics investigation.
Schiff made the thinly-veiled threat in a memo laying out the procedures for testimony that begins this week in the impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump.
Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, referred to federal laws that protect intelligence community whistleblowers from “reprisal or the threat of reprisal.” He then cited the Committee on Ethics, which investigates lawmakers’ abuse of office.
“The Committee has a long, proud, and bipartisan history of protecting whistleblowers—including from efforts to threaten, intimidate, retaliate against, or undermine the confidentiality of whistleblowers,” Schiff wrote.
Despite the threats, Schiff and his fellow Democrats published a transcript from an Oct. 22 deposition with Bill Taylor, the acting ambassador to Ukraine, that included the name of the CIA analyst who is widely rumored to be the whistleblower. A Republican lawmaker asked Taylor if he knew the individual, but the diplomat said he did not.
On Sunday, Schiff rejected Rep. Devin Nunes’ request to call the whistleblower to testify publicly about his complaint against Trump. Nunes, who is the top Republican on the intelligence panel, also called on Schiff to testify in a closed-door deposition about his office’s contact with the whistleblower.
Three diplomats are scheduled to testify this week in the first wave of public hearings in the impeachment inquiry.
The whistleblower, who is reported to be a CIA analyst, contacted an aide to Schiff prior to filing a complaint on Aug. 12 regarding Trump’s actions towards Ukraine. The complaint centers on Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Democrats have accused Trump of abusing his office by asking Zelensky to consider investigating Joe Biden’s activities involving Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian energy firm that had Hunter Biden as a board member. Trump also wanted Zelensky to open investigations into Ukraine’s possible meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Democrats allege that Trump pressured Zelensky by withholding hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. military aid to Ukraine. Trump has denied threatened a quid pro quo, and has called his phone call with Zelensky “perfect.”
Schiff rejected the request for the whistleblower’s testimony, saying that it was “redundant” to other testimony given during impeachment depositions. Republicans assert that one reason Schiff opposes testimony for the whistleblower is that he wants to avoid questions about the whistleblower’s contacts with his congressional office.
When the existence of the whistleblower complaint first surfaced, Schiff indicated that he did not know the contents of the complaint, or who was behind it. The New York Times reported on Oct. 2 that the whistleblower reached out to Schiff’s office, and that an aide referred the individual to the Intelligence Community Inspector General.
Soon after that revelation, Schiff backed off of his previous calls for the whistleblower to testify.