House Republicans repeatedly tried to out the whistleblower at impeachment hearing

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Republicans used their time questioning Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman to expose the whistleblower, despite threats against the person's life.

The House Intelligence Committee on Friday released a transcript of its closed-door deposition with a key impeachment witness, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who sat in on Donald Trump's now-infamous July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The transcript reveals numerous attempts by Republican members of Congress and top GOP aides to out the name of the whistleblower whose complaint helped lead to the impeachment inquiry against Trump.

According to multiple reports, there have already been several threats made against the whistleblower and their legal team.

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In his opening statement, delivered on Oct. 29 to the three committees leading the impeachment inquiry, Vindman told lawmakers that he was not the whistleblower, and that he "would not feel comfortable to speculate as to the identity of the whistleblower," according to the transcript.

But that didn't stop Republicans from asking Vindman questions that appeared intended to expose the whistleblower's name.

Steve Castor, the counsel for Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, asked Vindman during his deposition to list off people who he had spoken to about his concerns with the effort to force Ukraine to investigate Trump's political rivals. Eventually, Vindman's counsel caught on that Castor was apparently trying to probe for names of the potential whistleblower, and chimed in.

"My concern, Mr. Chairman and Mr. Ranking Member, I do not want him to get into specific names of people in the Intelligence Community," Vindman's counsel, Michale Volkov, said. "I know there's been a lot of controversy about who the whistleblower is or et cetera, but I think, as he said in his statement, he is not comfortable speculating as to it, guessing to it. We're not going to — I'm not going to allow him to go down a list of names on anything like that."

At one point, Castor read off a name and directly asked Vindman if that person was the whistleblower. The name was blacked out in the transcript, meaning it was deemed classified.

As Republicans continued pushing Vindman for the whistleblower's identity, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), chair of the House Intelligence Committee, became increasingly angry.

In an exchange with Rep. Jim Jordan (D-OH) — one of Trump's top defenders who often spreads conspiracy theories to try and protect Trump — Schiff argued that Republicans' questions were clearly intended to out the whistleblower.

"Mr. Jordan, the minority may not care about protecting the whistleblower, but we in the majority do," Schiff said.

Jordan kept probing, leading Schiff to eventually recess the hearing.

"It is the ruling of the chair that the witness shall not identify employees, detailees, or contractors of the intelligence agency, or provide information that may lead to the revelation of the identity of the whistleblower, someone whose life has been put at risk," Schiff said. "The majority cares about this, and we are determined to protect the right of that whistleblower to remain anonymous. And we will not allow bad-faith efforts to out this whistleblower."

Republicans have been trying for days to out the whistleblower, with an aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), the current ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, reportedly trying to pass the name around to Republicans on Capitol Hill.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has also called for the media to release the whistleblower's name, and has said he may in fact release the name himself.

Donald Trump Jr., Trump's eldest son, also tweeted the name of a person right-wing media claims is the whistleblower this week.

It's unclear what purpose revealing the name of the whistleblower would have, if not for Republican lawmakers to try and question the individual's motives. The accusations laid out in the whistleblower complaint have mostly been corroborated thus far, making uncovering their identity a moot point.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.