GOP senator says it's unfair to Trump to let whistleblower remain anonymous

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Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) says Senate Republicans may out the whistleblower if the House impeaches Donald Trump.

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) published an op-ed on Fox News Tuesday morning, as the second week of public impeachment inquiry hearings got underway.

In the op-ed, Tillis defended Donald Trump and accused House Democrats of treating Trump unfairly by allowing the whistleblower, whose complaint is at the center of the inquiry, to remain anonymous

"It's clear that Democrats don’t care about the facts," Tillis wrote. "They don't care about fairness. They don't care about due process rights."

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Tillis also claimed that Democrats "don't care about doing their jobs and passing legislation like the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement or my legislation to stop dangerous sanctuary cities."

The Democrat-led House has in fact passed over 400 bills this year on issues ranging from health care to gun safety to immigration. Most of those bills have been stalled by the GOP-led Senate.

Tillis argued specifically that the whistleblower's ability to remain anonymous was hampering Trump's due process rights.

"Democrats have also denied the president another basic tenant of legal fairness: allowing the accused to face their accuser," Tillis wrote. "They won't even agree to allow the president's lawyers to question the initial accuser or so-called 'whistleblower' in a confidential setting."

The House impeachment hearing is not a trial, but more akin to an indictment in a legal setting, as the Washington Post noted. In that stage of the criminal process, the defendant's lawyer's are not typically present, but will be present at the trial stage. If the House impeaches Trump, it will be up to the Republican-controlled Senate to set the rules for a trial.

Traditionally the president's lawyers have been allowed to cross-examine witnesses in previous Senate trials.

Republican criticism of the whistleblower's complaint has largely focused on the fact that the whistleblower cited second- and third-hand information about Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and had not listened in on the conversation.

It's unclear why Tillis and other Republicans have pushed for the whistleblower to testify given their complaints about second-hand information.

Additionally, since the whistleblower complaint was made public in September, multiple officials in both the White House and State Department have corroborated its claims, specifically that Trump pressured Ukraine to open investigations into both former Vice President Joe Biden and the Democratic National Committee. Testimony from those officials also revealed Trump conditioned critical military aid to Ukraine on the country's willingness to open such an investigation.

On the very day Tillis' op-ed was published, two Trump administration officials who listened in on the July 25 phone call — Jennifer Williams, a member of Vice President Mike Pence's staff, and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a Ukraine expert on the National Security Council — testified in a public hearing about the very issues raised by the whistleblower.

Despite the existence of first-hand accounts that back the whistleblower's concerns, including those of Williams and Vindman, whose closed-door testimony transcripts were released earlier this month, Tillis seemed to suggest on Tuesday that Senate Republicans may expose the whistleblower's identity if the House impeaches Donald Trump.

"I expect [a Senate trial] will include calling in the initial accuser to come before the Senate and testify under oath," Tillis wrote.

At a minimum, this would expose the whistleblower's identity to members of Congress and their staff if the hearing is held behind closed doors. If the hearing is public, the whistleblower, who has already faced death threats, would be exposed to the world.

Tillis's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the op-ed.

Tillis is far from the only Republican determined to expose the identity of the whistleblower. At Tuesday's hearing, Ranking Member Devin Nunes (R-CA) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) attempted to out the whistleblower through questions to Vindman. Their inquiries were shut down by committee Chair Adam Schiff and Vindman's counsel.

House Republicans have made previous attempts to out the whistleblower during closed-door hearings. Some senators, including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), have also demanded to know the individual's identity.

Trump himself has suggested the whistleblower was a traitor who should be executed.

The whistleblower's lawyer, Mark Zaid, claims the "only reason" to identify the whistleblower is "is to intimidate & harm."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.