This isn’t the first time the Ukraine-Gate whistleblower and his attorneys have offered to answer written questions, but it’s the first time they have offered to do so specifically with the Republican minority in the ad hoc impeachment panel. The earlier request would have left the questioning and more importantly the follow-up under Adam Schiff’s control, which Republicans rejected outright. How about, Mark Zaid proposed, if Republicans conducted their own private deposition with the whistleblower?
Hard pass, came the response, to which Zaid told ABC News that House Republicans “have no excuses”:
— Good Morning America (@GMA) November 4, 2019
The first Ukraine whistleblower has offered through their legal team to answer congressional Republicans’ written questions directly to them and under penalty of perjury, bypassing Democrats who control the impeachment process, attorney Mark Zaid confirmed to ABC News on Sunday.
Zaid said the original offer to answer written questions was to the full House Intelligence Committee, under the control of Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif. Republicans have complained about the unfairness of the closed-door depositions and impeachment process, with some suggesting the whistleblower’s identity should be known so President Donald Trump can face his accuser.
Rep. Jim Jordan, one of the ranking Republicans on the conglomerated committees, issued a statement rebuking both the whistleblower and his attorneys. Their client wanted to start an impeachment process, and that means he’d better account for himself as part of it, Jordan argued:
.@Jim_Jordan statement on whistleblower offering to answer Republicans written questions — saying it won’t provide a sufficient opportunity to cross examine the person. Says R’s have serious q’s about whistleblowers political bias and partisan motivations pic.twitter.com/TUIA4DxMVt
— Katherine Faulders (@KFaulders) November 4, 2019
Jordan serves as ranking member of Oversight, but the offer was made to Devin Nunes, ranking member of Intelligence. Nunes apparently never responded “substantively” to Zaid and Andrew Bakaj, but it’s not clear whether this would even work at all. Adam Schiff is conducting this inquiry, which means he controls what goes into the record — and what does not. Republicans can hold all the side depositions they want, but Schiff is under no obligation to acknowledge them.
That kind of arrangement would have to be made by caucus leaders, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said yesterday, and then also backed up Jordan’s objections:
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said Sunday that he had not yet discussed the whistleblower’s offer with Nunes, but stressed that the person should answer questions in a public appearance before the committee.
“When you’re talking about the removal of the president of the United States, undoing democracy, undoing what the American public had voted for, I think that individual should come before the committee,” McCarthy told CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
“We need an openness that people understand this,” he added.
At some point, this will be moot. Bakaj and Zaid are making similar offers to the Senate Intelligence Committee, but Richard Burr can simply issue a subpoena and force the person to testify under whatever conditions he prefers. They have not yet done that, presumably, because they don’t want to get caught out over their skis on whatever the House will end up producing on impeachment. However, if the House passes articles of impeachment, then Republicans will control the Senate trial — and you can bet that they will subpoena not just the whistleblower but also Schiff’s staff that was in contact with him to answer some tough questions.
Since Democrats seem anxious to distance themselves from the whistleblower, there’s no need to give either them or him cover by accepting special conditions for access. Better to wait for the inevitable Senate trial and conduct it under their own conditions — and to make them all sweat that out.