House Republicans interrupted Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff at the start of the first day of public impeachment hearings on Wednesday, demanding to hear from the whistleblower.
After an opening statement, Schiff — the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, which is leading the inquiry against President Donald Trump — swore in the day’s witnesses: Bill Taylor, the top American diplomat in Ukraine, and George Kent, a senior State Department official in charge of Ukraine policy.
Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik then lodged a “parliamentary inquiry,” demanding to know when Schiff would respond to her caucus’s Nov. 9 demand to hear testimony from six additional witnesses, as well as the CIA officer who triggered the impeachment push by filing a whistleblower complaint on Aug. 12.
The California congressman told Stefanik she could make the request again after the witnesses testified. He added that he is “disturbed” that some Republicans have sought to “out the whistleblower.”
“Mr. chairman, only one member and their staff on this committee has direct knowledge of the identity of the whistleblower,” Stefanik fired back, referring to Schiff.
Rep. Mike Conaway, a Texas Republican, then cut in with a motion to “subpoena the whistleblower for a closed-door secret deposition.”
Schiff again said motions could be made after witness testimony.
At that point, Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio got involved.
“Do you anticipate when we might vote on the ability to have the whistleblower in front of us?” asked Jordan, a ranking member of the Oversight Committee.
“Of the 435 members of Congress, you are the only member who knows who that individual is, and your staff is the only staff of any member of Congress who’s had a chance to talk with that individual,” Jordan continued. “We would like that opportunity. When might that happen in this proceeding today?”
Schiff responded by accusing Jordan of lying.
“First, as the gentleman knows, that’s a false statement,” Schiff said. “I do not know the identity of the whistleblower, and I am determined to make sure that identity is protected.”
Schiff then repeated that Republicans would have to wait until the end of the hearing to file motions.
Schiff claims he "does not know the identity of the whistleblower." pic.twitter.com/HdDQGmHwv8
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) November 13, 2019
Conservatives slam Adam Schiff for claiming not to know the identity of the whistleblower
On Twitter, conservatives quickly rejected Schiff’s claim not to know the whistleblower, saying he was the one lying in the exchange with Jordan.
Reporter Ryan Saavedra was among the commentators who pointed out that Schiff has misrepresented his interactions with the whistleblower before. He suggested it was implausible that he does not know who the person is.
Democrat Chairman Adam Schiff: "I do not know the identity of the whistleblower"
Schiff has repeatedly falsely claimed that his team has not spoken to the whistleblower
The Washington Post debunked Schiff's false claim, giving him "4 Pinocchios" for his lie pic.twitter.com/QWmxblWSxd
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) November 13, 2019
Then, on Sept. 17, Schiff appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” where contributor Sam Stein directly asked him if he had “heard from the whistleblower.”
Schiff replied: “We have not spoken directly with the whistleblower. We would like to.”
However, on Oct. 2, Schiff’s office admitted to The New York Times that he in fact knew about the whistleblower’s allegations days before the officer filed his complaint over Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. That’s because the whistleblower came to the House Intelligence Committee for advice.
“Like other whistle-blowers have done before and since under Republican and Democratic-controlled committees, the whistle-blower contacted the committee for guidance on how to report possible wrongdoing within the jurisdiction of the intelligence community,” said Schiff’s spokesman, Patrick Boland.
According to the Times, the whistleblower approached a House Intelligence Committee aide and outlined his concerns over Trump asking Zelenskiy to investigate a domestic political rival. The aide reportedly encouraged the whistleblower, a CIA officer, to find a lawyer and file a complaint with the intelligence community’s inspector general, which he proceded to do.
The Times noted that his prior knowledge of the complaint “explains how Mr. Schiff knew to press for the complaint when the Trump administration initially blocked lawmakers from seeing it.”
On Sept. 25, Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California announced that the House was formally launching impeachment proceedings against the president. Democrats went on to hold weeks of closed-door hearings, following which testimony was selectively leaked. Last Tuesday, the Democrats announced they would hold public hearings starting this week.
Trump has referred to his call with Zelensky as “perfect” and denied any wrongdoing. He and his allies have accused Democrats of trying to undemocratically remove him from office.
In response to mounting pressure for the whistleblower to be identified, the officer’s lawyer, Mark Zaid, said last Sunday that his client would answer written questions from House Republicans. But Trump and the Republicans immediately rejected the offer.
“Written answers will not provide a sufficient opportunity to probe all the relevant facts and cross-examine the so-called whistleblower,” Jordan said at the time. “You don’t get to ignite an impeachment effort and never account for your actions and role in orchestrating it.”