House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff took steps to block Republicans from questioning Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman about leaks damaging to President Trump during his closed-door testimony.
The California Democrat blocked GOP lawmakers from questioning Vindman about his conversations with other members of the intelligence community following a July 10 meeting with Ukraine government officials and after Vindman listened in on a July 25 call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
At the July 10 meeting, Vindman reported, the Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, told the Ukrainians they must first pledge to investigate actions by former Vice President Joe Biden to protect the Burisma gas company and also allegations that Democrats interfered in the 2016 elections with the help of Ukraine.
Rep. Jim Jordan asked Vindman if, following the meeting, he “related the Sondland comments … with any other individual.” Republicans are interested in determining who provided the information to the whistleblower, who did not listen to the July 25 call. [Schiff], agreeing with an objection from Vindman’s lawyer, blocked Jordan’s question. “The witness may refrain from identifying any employee, detailee, or contractor of the Intelligence Community,” Schiff said, according to newly released transcripts of Vindland’s deposition.
The interaction was one of several Republicans have cited in their effort to show Schiff and the Democrats have been unfairly limiting cross-examination of witnesses who accuse Trump of wrongdoing.
Jordan asked Vindman about the July 25 call, which later became the source of a whistleblower complaint that is now at the heart of the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. “Who else did you talk to following the July 25th call?” Jordan asked Vindman, who was listening in on the call.
That’s when Rep. Eric Swalwell and Schiff jumped in and told Jordan his line of questioning had to stop because it threatened to expose the anonymous whistleblower. “Mr. Jordan, the minority may not care about protecting the whistleblower, but we in the majority do,” Schiff said.
Jordan argued the GOP also want to protect the whistleblower and simply wanted to know who Vindman spoke to about the meeting and the call. “I also care that you keep interrupting us, and we have questions,” Jordan said to Schiff. “He has counsel who can tell him he’s not to answer that.”
Vindman was testifying under subpoena, Jordan reminded him.
“And the question is, who did Lieutenant Colonel Vindman talk to after the July 25th call?” Jordan asked Vindman’s lawyer if he would be willing to identify individuals he talked to about the call by department but did not want to provide names. Schiff agreed.
“We just don’t feel comfortable providing names,” Vindman’s lawyer Michael Volkov said. Republicans challenged Schiff, ordering Vindman not to name names.
“It is the ruling of the chain that the witness shall not identify employees, detailees, on contractors of the intelligence agency, or provide information that may lead to the revelation of the identity of the whistleblower, someone whose life has been put at risk,”
Jordan argued for extra time to formally appeal Schiff’s ruling, but Schiff then adjourned the hearing for lunch.
The transcripts provide details about GOP complaints that Schiff has been preventing Republicans from asking questions during depositions. “When we asked who he spoke to after important events in July, Adam Schiff says ‘no, no, no, we’re not going to let him answer that question,”‘ Jordan said last month after Vindman’s deposition.