The first public impeachment hearings began with an attempt to keep the whistleblower’s identity secret.
The first public impeachment hearing into President Donald Trump began Wednesday with arguments over whether or not to out a whistleblower.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff began the hearing with his opening statements, saying that the president’s July 25 phone call with Ukraine’s president was an impeachable offense and questioning whether Trump was trying to “exploit” the country’s “vulnerability” for his own personal gain. The inquiry, which is based on an August whistleblower complaint, has received pushback from Republicans who have voiced support for being able to question the person behind the complaint.
Arguments broke out after opening statements about who the whistleblower is and whether House members will be able to question the person. Republican New York Rep. Elise Stefanik announced a point of order before hearing from two witnesses. She noted that “only one member and their staff on this committee has direct knowledge of the identity of the whistleblower” and wondered if Schiff would be preventing witnesses from answering members’ questions as he had “in the closed-door depositions.”
Schiff pushed back on Stafanik’s questions, asking her to suspend her commentary and saying that the committee “will not permit the outing of the whistleblower.” The California Democrat said he would “intervene” if questions about the identity of the person came about.
“You asked a parliamentary inquiry I am responding,” Schiff said. “For point of order, I am responding. We will not permit the outing of the whistleblower and questions along those lines, counsel, will inform their clients not to respond to. If necessary, I will intervene, otherwise, I want members to feel free to ask any questions they like.”
As Schiff replied, Republican Rep. Mike Conaway of Texas began to make an argument about naming the whistleblower. The two congressmen went back and forth, interrupting each other as each tried to make their point.
“Mr. Chairman, I’m responding to the gentlewoman’s point of order,” Schiff said as Conaway was trying to make a motion.
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