Where’s the whistleblower? Key GOP questions about Schiff’s contact may never be answered

House Republicans are eager to ask the whistleblower at the center of the impeachment inquiry a variety of questions about the scope and frequency of his contact with House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff.

They also want to know about the California Democrat’s role in orchestrating the complaint alleging President Trump sought Ukraine’s help investigating Joe Biden.

But it is appearing more likely Republicans will never have the chance to ask the whistleblower any questions at all about how closely he worked with Schiff’s team.

“At some point, both Schiff and the whistleblower came to the conclusion that his personal testimony stands to do more harm than good to both of them,” a Republican source who requested anonymity told the Washington Examiner.

Republicans planned to ask the whistleblower a long list of questions about his contact with Schiff. Among the questions is whether Schiff directed the whistleblower to file his complaint with the intelligence community inspector general, which gave Schiff’s committee official jurisdiction over the matter and provided a platform for them to launch an impeachment inquiry.

Schiff hasn’t made an announcement about the whistleblower’s appearance but it is looking increasingly likely he won’t be testifying at all, even though Democrats had once deemed his testimony crucial to their probe into Trump’s conduct during a July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Suddenly, the whistleblower has become irrelevant.

“Given that we already have the call record, we don’t need the whistleblower who wasn’t on the call to tell us what took place during the call,” Schiff told CBS News on Sunday. “We have the best evidence of that.”

Schiff has over the past two weeks gradually veered away from his effort to interview the whistleblower citing the need to protect the person’s safety and anonymity.

But just weeks earlier, House Intelligence Committee Democrats were adamant about interviewing the whistleblower, even though he did not have first hand knowledge of the July 25 call.

Democrats demanded acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire promise to allow the testimony before House lawmakers conducting the impeachment probe.

“I was very pleased that the Director gave his personal assurance that that whistleblower would not only be protected, but when that whistleblower comes before our committee, and all that is remaining is to get the security clearances for his or her counsel, that when that whistleblower comes before our committee, there won’t be any Department of Justice minder, no White House minder — no one to sit next to that whistleblower and try to circumscribe, redact anything that whistleblower has to say as it pertains to misconduct by the president or anyone around him,” Schiff told CNN last month.

Schiff became less enthusiastic about hearing from the whistleblower following his admission on Oct. 2, provided by his press team directly to the New York Times, that his top staff on the intelligence panel had, in fact, been in contact with the whistleblower prior to the whistleblower filing a formal complaint about the call with the intelligence community inspector general.

Schiff’s admission contrasted his earlier claim that the panel had no communication at all with the whistleblower.

And it drew sharp criticism from Republicans who cited it as evidence Schiff has been dishonest about his role in orchestrating the whistleblower complaint and subsequent leaks to the media.

“So the whistleblower was communicating with team Adam Schiff behind the scenes?” House Oversight and Government Reform Committee member Mark Meadows, a Republican from North Carolina, said. “Well. This explains a lot, indeed.”

Schiff has insisted he had no personal contact with the whistleblower and that only his staff handled the communication with the whistleblower, who approached the panel days before lodging the official complaint.

“As Chairman Schiff has made clear, he does not know the identity of the whistleblower, has had no communication with them or their attorney, and did not view the whistleblower’s complaint until the day prior to the hearing with the director of national intelligence, when the office of the director of national intelligence finally provided it to the committee,” Schiff spokesman Patrick Boland told the Washington Examiner.

Republicans believe the whistleblower’s contact with Schiff’s team was more significant than he has disclosed and say the GOP lawmakers on the panel would have compelled the whistleblower to testify about that contact.

“Republicans are convinced that the contacts between Schiff, his staff, and the whistleblower were much more extensive than reported,” the GOP source said.“If we get a second round of media stories about Schiff being deceptive again, that would be really damaging to Schiff,” the GOP source said. “He doesn’t want to have to answer those questions.”

Schiff has for weeks been building the case that the whistleblower believes his anonymity and safety would be threatened if he appears before the committee.

Democrats cite Trump’s comments calling the whistleblower’s account of the call “a fraud” and the whistleblower’s lawyers wrote to Congress and called Trump’s comments about the whistleblower “dangerous for our client and any other whistleblowers.”

Schiff, speaking to CBS News Sunday, said his priority is making sure “the whistleblower is protected,” now that other whistleblowers are surfacing and that the original whistleblower’s testimony “may not be necessary.”

For Republicans, it will end any chance of finding out what guidance, if any, Schiff offered the whistleblower, when and how the whistleblower first contacted Schiff’s staff, whether the staff consulted with Schiff before advising the whistleblower, and what advice Schiff may have provided and whether they leaked any of the information to the media.

“Schiff has never given a full account of it, so about the only way we could get that information is to question the whistleblower directly,” the GOP source told the Washington Examiner. “Now, conveniently, Schiff is closing off that possibility.”


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