When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the Democrats would launch an “official impeachment inquiry,” she said this action had been made necessary by a whistleblower complaint concerning a phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Madam Speaker used the term “whistleblower” no fewer than eight times in her five-minute statement. Saturday, however, we learned that the anonymous individual whose complaint loomed so large in the speaker’s decision to launch the investigation will not be permitted to testify before Congress. House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), whom Pelosi assigned to lead the inquiry, announced that the whistleblower’s testimony would be “redundant.”
Chairman Schiff’s relegation of the whistleblower to the realm of redundancy was revealed in a letter to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the ranking member of the Intelligence Committee, in response to a witness request that included him in a list of individuals the Republicans want to question. The House resolution that formalized the rules of the investigation allows them to call witnesses, but it also gives Schiff veto power, which he exercised in this case. There is, however, no legitimate reason to deny the minority party access to this witness. No honest chairman of an impeachment inquiry would prevent the Republicans from questioning the very person whose complaint launched the inquiry. Sunday morning, Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham put it bluntly:
I consider any impeachment in the House that doesn’t allow us to know who the whistleblower is to be invalid because without the whistleblower complaint we wouldn’t be talking about any of this.… It’s impossible to bring this case forward, in my view, fairly without us knowing who the whistleblower is and having a chance to cross-examine them about any biases they may have. So if they don’t call the whistleblower in the House, this thing is dead on arrival in the Senate.… This is not about Schiff finding the truth, this is about Schiff trying to destroy the Trump presidency.
Sen. Graham’s point is particularly poignant considering that restricting access to the whistleblower constitutes a vertigo-inducing volte-face by Schiff concerning the testimony of this mysterious individual and its importance to the inquiry. As recently as late September, Schiff insisted that the testimony of this person was definitely part of the plan and would be forthcoming very soon: “We’ll get the unfiltered testimony of that whistleblower … We are taking all the precautions” to protect his identity. During a very contentious September hearing with Joseph Maguire, director of national intelligence, Schiff demanded a firm commitment from the director that the whistleblower be permitted by the Trump administration to testify:
Director, do I have your assurance that once you work out the security clearances for the whistleblower’s counsel, that that whistleblower will be able to relate the full facts within his knowledge that concern wrongdoing by the president or anyone else, that he or she will not be inhibited in what they can tell our committee, that there will not be some minder from the White House or elsewhere sitting next to them telling them what they can answer or not answer? Do I have your assurance that the whistleblower will be able to testify fully and freely and enjoy the protections of the law?
Maguire replied in the affirmative, but Schiff reversed himself when it was reported that his committee had colluded with the whistleblower before the latter filed his complaint. Shortly thereafter, Schiff began claiming that President Trump had been “threatening the whistleblower” and that it had become necessary to protect the identity of the mystery witness for safety purposes. In his letter to Nunes, Schiff augmented this risible claim with the assertion that there had been such an avalanche of evidence gathered against Trump that the testimony of the original whistleblower was no longer needed. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, one would need a heart of stone to read the following passage from Schiff’s Saturday missive without laughing aloud:
The whistleblower has a right under laws championed by this Committee to remain anonymous and to be protected from harm.
The impeachment inquiry, moreover, has gathered an ever-growing body of evidence — from witnesses and documents, including the President’s own words in his July 25 call record — that not only confirms, but far exceeds, the initial information in the whistleblower’s complaint. The whistleblower’s testimony is therefore redundant and unnecessary. In light of the President’s threats, the individual’s appearance before us would only place their personal safety at grave risk.
Disregarding all the nonsense about the “grave personal risk” the whistleblower faces from the archfiend Donald Trump, what about the claim that there is an ever-growing body of evidence that renders the whistleblower’s testimony unnecessary? It’s another of Schiff’s trademark whoppers. The California congressman wants the whistleblower kept away from Republican committee members for reasons of self-preservation. As House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy put it on Sunday, “Why is Schiff doing that? Is it because we found out that he [Schiff] met with him and his staff met with him?” Of course it is. Schiff knows that if Republicans question the whistleblower under oath, that will come out, and what remains of his party’s credibility will be shot.
All this began when the so-called whistleblower was coached by Adam Schiff’s Intel Committee concerning how best to deploy his complaint. Then Nancy Pelosi justified the House impeachment inquiry by repeatedly citing that complaint. Chairman Schiff accused Trump administration officials of refusing to allow the whistleblower to testify. But when the Republicans requested his testimony, Schiff refused to permit it. He now tells us he doesn’t need the whistleblower. This really does seem a lot like a grainy old movie with bad lines and worse acting.