Lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee are bracing for a contentious flareup Tuesday when Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman testifies because Republicans could ask him about his conversations after President Donald Trump’s infamous July phone call with the Ukrainian President.
When Republicans attempted a similar line of questioning behind closed doors during Vindman’s deposition last month, Democrats accused the GOP of trying to out the whistleblower whose complaint spawned the impeachment inquiry, prompting a partisan shouting match and leaving lawmakers on both sides furious. House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, objected to the line of questioning, causing Republicans to cry foul.
Republicans told CNN Monday evening they would not shy away from that line of questioning during Tuesday’s open hearing with Vindman, who serves on the White House National Security Council and reported his concerns about Trump’s ask for Ukraine to investigate his political rivals.
GOP lawmakers argue they are not trying to uncover the identity of the whistleblower, but want to know the steps that Vindman took after the call and whether he appropriately reported his concerns up the chain of command. And they believe if Schiff objects Tuesday, they will once again use it as ammunition to accuse the California Democrat of heavy-handed leadership atop the panel.
Leaving a GOP strategy meeting Monday afternoon, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio told CNN that no decisions have been made. But he indicated Schiff would not dictate their questions.
“We are working on what we are going to ask,” Jordan told CNN. “Mr. Vindman has been subpoenaed by Congress. That means members of Congress should get to ask the questions they want. Adam Schiff doesn’t just get to ask the questions he wants.”
Jordan added: “Whether that comes up tomorrow or not – we are still talking about the sequencing of questions and what those questions will be.”
But Democrats on Monday had a warning.
“Any effort to out the whistleblower should be stopped and will be,” said Rep. Mike Quigley, a Democrat from Illinois.
During Vindman’s deposition, Schiff objected to a line of GOP questioning about who Vindman had spoken with, something the chairman described as a “bad-faith effort to out a whistleblower who has a statutory night to remain anonymous.”
Republicans pushed back, arguing they have the right to ask out who Vindman spoke to about the Ukraine matter.
“We can ask the questions we want to ask,” Jordan said at the time.
It also prompted a heated back and forth, with Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell and GOP Rep. Mark Meadows engaging in a tough exchange.
As Meadows tried to raise a procedural objection, Swalwell tried to get Meadows to let Schiff finish speaking.
“He’s the chairman,” Swalwell said. “He finishes.”
Meadows responded: “Shut up.”