October 9, 2019
House Democrats are weighing extraordinary steps to secure testimony from the whistleblower whose complaint prompted their impeachment inquiry—considering masking his identity to prevent President Donald Trump’s congressional allies from exposing him, according to three officials familiar with the deliberations, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday.
As the GOP continues its political posturing and plotting, as well as obstruction of witness testimony, Democrats deem it imperative to have the whistleblower testify from a remote location; and to conceal his appearance and voice, these officials told the DC-based news outlet. Two other possibilities include having the whistleblower sit behind a screen or partition or conducting audio-only testimony.
“Schiff does not want to burn his identity,” a senior congressional official told the newspaper.
“There are lots of different protocols and procedures we’re looking into to find out what works and doesn’t work to protect the identity of the whistleblower,” a person familiar with the talks told the news outlet. “That is paramount.”
The whistleblower’s complaint centered on Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, during which Trump pressed the new leader eight times to investigate former vice president Joe Biden, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, and his son Hunter.
On Tuesday, the House Intelligence Committee was told that the testimony of Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, had been blocked b y the State Department. The whistleblower said that Sondland met with Zelensky to give “advice” about how to “navigate” Trump’s demands, working behind the scenes to carry out the president’s wishes in a country that’s not a member of the European Union.
In text messages provided to Congress, Sondland insisted that Trump’s decision to withhold nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine was not a quid pro quo—as diplomat William B. “Bill” Taylor had said he feared.
Trump told Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, to hold back the military aid for Ukraine shortly before his July call. Trump has repeatedly denied that there was a “quid pro quo” between the military assistance and the request to investigate the Bidens.
At the White House on Monday, Trump lashed out at Democrats over their impeachment inquiry.
“You can’t impeach a president for doing a great job. . . . This is a scam,” he said at an event on trade with Japan.
Research contact: @washingtonpost