Whistleblower’s Lawyer Offers GOP Chance to Question Client

November 4, 2019by Laura Davison
Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) speaks at a news conference on July 24, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. (Stefani Reynolds/CNP/Zuma Press/TNS)

WASHINGTON — The lawyer for the whistleblower behind the report that sparked a House impeachment inquiry said he’s offering Republicans the chance to question his client directly — but only in writing.

Mark S. Zaid said on Twitter Sunday that he’s extended an offer to Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, to submit questions that the whistleblower would respond to under oath and the penalty of perjury. But the identity of the whistleblower would remain a secret.

The questions “cannot seek identifying info, regarding which we will not provide, or otherwise be inappropriate. We will ensure timely answers,” Zaid said in a series of tweets.

The offer comes as Republicans are calling for investigations to determine the identify of the whistleblower and whether that person did anything improper to obtain the information about a July 25 phone call, during which President Donald Trump asked the Ukrainian president to investigate political rivals. The report was made public in September and led to the impeachment inquiry.

Trump has repeatedly challenged the whistleblower — including on Sunday, suggesting the person gave “false stories” about the “perfect” phone call. “The whistleblower should be revealed,” Trump told reporters outside the White House. On Saturday, the president wondered what’s become of the person.

The lawyer’s offer would let Republicans bypass Democrats and question the whistleblower directly. GOP lawmakers have criticized a lack of an adequate fact-finding role in the process. The House passed a resolution on Thursday that would permit Republicans to call their own witnesses, but those individuals can be vetoed by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy suggested that anonymous written answers wouldn’t appease members of his party.

“I think that individual should come before the committee,” McCarthy said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” adding that it could be a closed-door hearing. “But he needs to answer the questions. We need an openness that people understand this.”

Republican demands are misguided because multiple people who listened to the call have confirmed the whistleblower’s account, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said on CBS.

“The problem that Kevin has and the Republicans have is witness after witness after witness says, ‘Yes, I was there, I listened, those are the facts,’ ” Hoyer said.

Zaid and another lawyer representing the whistleblower, Andrew P. Bakaj, in a Washington Post Op-ed last month said that revealing their client’s identity would do little to shed light on Trump’s actions.

“What it would do, however, is put that individual and their family at risk of harm,” they said. “Perhaps more important, it would deter future whistleblowers from coming forward in subsequent administrations, Democratic or Republican.”

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