House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) immediately intervened in Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman’s testimony Tuesday, Nov. 19, when Vindman revealed that he spoke to an anonymous member of the intelligence community about President Donald Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
Vindman, a National Security Council official and one of the top White House experts on Ukraine, when asked by Ranking Member Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) who he might have spoken to about the call, testified that he had discussed the call with an unknown intelligence community member as well as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs George Kent, who testified to Congress last week.
“As you know, the intelligence community has 17 different agencies. What agency was this individual from?” Nunes asked for clarification, at which point Schiff interrupted to prevent the witness from exposing the whistleblower’s identity.
“If I could interject here. We don’t want to use the proceedings —” Schiff began.
“It’s our time,” Nunes protested.
“But we need to protect the whistleblower. Please stop. I want to make sure that there is no effort to out the whistleblower through these proceedings. If the witness has a good faith belief that this may reveal the identity of the whistleblower, that is not the purpose that we’re here for. I want to advise the witness accordingly,” Schiff said.
Nunes shot back, pointing out that Vindman had stated in his deposition that he did not know the identity of the whistleblower and asking Vindman how could possibly he expose the identity of the whistleblower if he did not know who he/she is.
“Per the advice of my counsel, I have been advised not to answer specific questions about members of the intelligence community,” Vindman replied and clarified only that the person or people he spoke to “were properly cleared individuals or was a properly cleared individual with a need to know.”
Nunes then told Vindman to “either answer the question” or “plead the Fifth.”
Vindman’s admission of his discussion with the unknown intelligence community member raised questions about whether he may have been a source for the whistleblower who triggered the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry into President Trump’s alleged misconduct.
Vindman also told the committee that he considered the president’s phone call with Zelenskiy “inappropriate.”
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), in a letter to the ranking Republicans on the House Intelligence and Oversight Committees that detailed his account of White House meetings with Senate lawmakers about the releasing of foreign aid to Ukraine, said he cast doubt on Vindmand’s testimony, reported the Fox News.
Johnson noted that Vindman is one of “a significant number of bureaucrats and staff members within the executive branch have never accepted President Trump as legitimate and resent his unorthodox style and his intrusion onto their turf.”
“They react by leaking to the press and participating in the ongoing effort to sabotage his policies and, if possible, remove him from office,” he added. “It is entirely possible that Vindman fits this profile.”