Just what role did the Ukraine-Gate whistleblower play in the quid pro quo? Not the one allegedly committed by Donald Trump in 2019, but the one openly admitted by Joe Biden that took place in 2016. Senate Republicans asked defense counsel Patrick Philbin whether Adam Schiff’s coordination with the whistleblower interfere with due process in the impeachment process.

Yes it did, Philbin replied, but that’s not the only potential problem with the whistleblower and Schiff’s case. His reported work for Biden raises questions whether he had any role in Biden’s decision to withhold aid from Ukraine to get Viktor Shokin fired, Philbin noted. Was his “whistleblowing” crafted to protect himself when it became clear that Trump was determined to investigate the Bidens?

“If the whistleblower, as is alleged in some public reports, actually did work for then-Vice President Biden on Ukraine issues, exactly what was his role? What was his involvement when issues were raised — we know from testimony that questions were raised — about the potential conflict of interest that the vice president then had when his son was sitting on the board of Burisma,” Philbin asked. “Was the alleged whistleblower involved in any of that and in making decisions to not do anything related to that?” …

“Did he have some reason to want to put the deep-six on any question raising any issue about what went on with the Bidens and Burisma and firing Shokin and withholding a billion dollars in loan guarantees and enforcing a very explicit quid pro quo — you won’t get this billion dollars until you fire him?” Philbin asked, pointedly.

“We don’t know, and because Manager Schiff was guiding this whole process — because he was chairman in charge of directing the inquiry and directing it away from any of those questions — that creates a real due process defect in the record,” the president’s lawyer declared.

Yes, indeed it does, at least in the legal sense. This isn’t a criminal trial, however; it’s a political process, and it’s intended to be a political process. It still should have the trappings of a judicial process, however, including due process and the right to present an effective defense.

Even if Philbin’s theory on the whistleblower comes to naught, the defense should have the opportunity to pursue it. They were denied access to the whistleblower during the House impeachment process and thus far aren’t getting any access during the trial either. Trump’s legal team has made clear presentations that they believe the Bidens’ actions in Ukraine are reasonably suspicious enough to have warranted an investigation, and if the whistleblower worked on that issue for Biden, the whistleblower suddenly has a lot of motive to obstruct that investigation.

Schiff’s actions in using and then withdrawing the whistleblower effectively shut down the kind of due process that criminal defendants routinely get — the opportunity to pursue their alternate theories of the supposed crime. That’s not an unlimited right; alternate theories have to have at least some evidentiary basis. The House process, however, completely denied the president the chance to even seek the evidence, let alone identify the people involved.

Philbin’s smart to keep this theoretical and focus instead on due process, in case this theory of the case ends up going nowhere. The important issue, Philbin emphasizes, is that the entire process lacked any credibility as a search for truth, which effectively poisons the trial as well. That should be sufficient to warrant a dismissal, if the Senate was inclined to pursue such a motion, but an acquittal will have to suffice. And this is not the last we’ll hear about the whistleblower today either, but we will have more on that later this morning.