By Jon Dougherty
(TNS) Now that the Senate has acquitted President Trump of a pair of bogus impeachment articles, the Republican chairman of the Intelligence Committee believes it’s time to bring in the person who got that ball rolling in the first place: The ‘Ukraine whistleblower.’
Like a character from the Harry Potter series, ‘he who shall not be named’ has yet to officially be identified, though most everyone paying attention to impeachment over the past several months is aware that it is very like CIA employee Eric Ciaramella.
But identifying him isn’t as important to the head of the committee as is hearing what led to his complaint in the first place and what happened afterward.
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The Hill reports:
The probe will force senators to decide if, and how, they speak with the whistleblower — a controversial call that could test the bipartisan reputation the Intelligence panel has maintained even amid deeply partisan fights in Congress.
Asked by The Hill if he was willing to formally compel and subpoena the whistleblower to testify, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) didn’t rule out the possibility.
“I think you can rest assured that I’m prepared to do whatever we have to to interview the whistleblower,” Burr said.
The renewed interest in speaking with the whistleblower comes after committee staff and lawyers for the individual hit a stalemate late last year over potential questioning.
Lawyers for the individual made offers at the time to both the House and Senate Intelligence committees that their client was willing to provide written answers under oath, but Burr rejected that offer.
The North Carolina senator indicated no progress had been made since then in trying to reach a deal on testimony, and that while he hadn’t spoken recently with Mark Zaid, one of the whistleblower’s lawyers, that his plan is “an interview with committee staff.”
One senator who appears to be extremely eager to hear from the whistleblower is Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), though he’s not a member of the Intelligence Committee.
“The Senate Intel Committee under Richard Burr has told us that we will call the whistleblower,” Graham, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, said earlier this month during a Fox News interview.
He added in a subsequent interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation” that the “whistleblower episode needs to be investigated by Richard Burr” and in an interview with Fox News Radio that “the Intel Committee should be looking at whether or not the whistleblower had a bias.”
Reports suggest that he has.
For one, Republicans allege that the whistleblower had contact with Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and his staff prior to lodging his ‘complaint’ which, by the way, was pretty much debunked after the White House unexpectedly released the transcript of the phone call in question between Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky.
They also believe that Schiff has so far refused to release the secret testimony from Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson because it will prove that the whistleblower colluded with Schiff’s office.
DEVELOPING: Why is Schiff still withholding transcript of ICIG Michael Atkinson's Oct 4 closed-door testimony which lasted 8+ hours? He's released 15 witness transcripts but is still hiding Atkinson's. Also, what's Atkinson's connection to Obama officials including David Laufman?
— Paul Sperry (@paulsperry_) November 30, 2019
I know why @paulsperry_ It’s because I asked IG Atkinson about his “investigation” into the contacts between Schiff’s staff and the person who later became the whistleblower. The transcript is classified “secret” so Schiff can prevent you from seeing the answers to my questions
— John Ratcliffe (@RepRatcliffe) November 30, 2019
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Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of the Intelligence Committee and GOP leadership, said that he would support subpoenaing the whistleblower if Burr takes that path.
“I’d be supportive of whatever it takes, including a subpoena,” Blunt told The Hill, adding that he also thought the committee “would probably be willing to do this in any reasonable way that the whistleblower would be willing to come forward.”
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