Nov 19, 2019

Vindman refuses to answer questions amid fear of outing whistleblower

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman faced a round of questioning from House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) over people with whom he discussed the July 25 call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Why it matters: After Vindman said he discussed the call — as a part of his position on the National Security Council — with State Department official George Kent and an unnamed intelligence official, the questioning devolved into a squabble over the impeachment inquiry's rules protecting the identity of the whistleblower.

  • Vindman said that his counsel had advised him against discussing any specific members of the intelligence community.
  • Schiff interjected during the line of questioning to state: "If the witness has a good faith belief that this may reveal the identity of the whistleblower, that is not the purpose that we are here for — and I want to advise the witness accordingly."

Worth noting: Vindman testified in his closed-door hearing — and repeated today — that he did not know the identity of the whistleblower.

The big picture: The impeachment inquiry's laid-out rules have a section on "Whistleblower Protection and Confidentiality," which states that the House Intelligence Committee will not "facilitate any efforts by President Trump or his allies to threaten, intimidate, or retaliate against the whistleblower."

  • It also implies that any committee members who break those rules could face an investigation from the House Ethics Committee.

The state of play: The name of the whistleblower has been at the heart of a war in the Republican Party as some Trump allies — including the president's own son, Donald Trump Jr. — have publicly stated the whistleblower's alleged identity, which has been promoted by right-wing media.

Go deeper: Live updates from the Vindman-Williams impeachment hearing

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