Spotlight: Whistleblower offers to take written questions in Trump impeachment inquiry

Source: Xinhua| 2019-11-04 14:06:46|Editor: Wang Yamei
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WASHINGTON, Nov. 3 (Xinhua) -- The anonymous whistleblower whose complaint triggered an impeachment inquiry into U.S. President Donald Trump has agreed to answer written questions from Republican lawmakers, an attorney said on Sunday, as the process is dividing Washington further.

"Our legal team offered GOP direct opportunity to ask written questions of #whistleblower," Mark Zaid, who's representing the whistleblower, said in a series of tweets, while warning Republicans against their recent messaging that demanded the disclosure of the whistleblower's identity.

"GOP has sought to expose our client's identity which could jeopardize their safety, as well as that of their family," he wrote.

Zaid also said they have offered both Republican and Democratic members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees to have his client answer questions "in writing, under oath & penalty of perjury."

The attorney, specifically, said they have offered to Devin Nunes, the Republican ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, "opportunity for Minority to submit through legal team written questions" to the Whistleblower.

"Qs cannot seek identifying info, regarding which we will not provide, or otherwise be inappropriate. We will ensure timely answers," he said. "Being a whistleblower is not a partisan job nor is impeachment an objective. That is not our role."

In an anonymous complaint this summer, the whistleblower raised concerns about the White House's interactions with Ukraine, including a July 25 phone call between Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, which prompted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to initiate the impeachment inquiry late September.

Trump was alleged to have abused power by using a military aid to pressure Zelensky into investigating former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, a top-tier 2020 Democratic presidential contender, so as to help his re-election campaign. Besides, the White House allegedly tried to cover it up.

Trump has denied any wrongdoing or a "quid pro quo."

The White House has dismissed those allegations and made clear that it will not cooperate with House investigators by providing documents or witnesses because it considered the ongoing impeachment inquiry unfair and illegitimate.

Zaid's offer came as Trump called on Sunday for the revealing of the whistleblower's identity, while attacking the complaint's credibility.

"The whistleblower should be revealed because the whistleblower gave false stories. Some people would call it a fraud; I won't go that far," Trump told reporters at the White House.

"I don't know why the media is not on it, because the whistleblower gave a very inaccurate report about my phone call," he said. "My phone call was perfecto. It was totally appropriate."

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Sunday suggested that written testimony would not satisfy Republicans.

"When you're talking about the removal of the president of the United States, undoing democracy, undoing what the American public had voted for, I think that individual should come before the committee," the California Republican said on CBS's "Face the Nation." "He needs to answer the questions."

Since the start of the inquiry, House investigators have spoken to roughly a dozen former and current Trump administration officials behind closed doors.

The Democratic-controlled House approved mostly along party lines a resolution earlier in the past week that establishes procedures for public hearings in the impeachment inquiry and the release of deposition transcripts, among other things, signaling that the next phase of impeachment could start soon.

Jackie Speier, a Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee, said on Sunday that transcripts of the depositions will probably be released in the coming week.

"I think you're going to see all of the transcripts that are going to be released probably within the next five days," Speier told CBS's "Face the Nation."

"I don't know if they're all going to be released on the same day, but they're going to be very telling to the American people," she added.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who also appeared on CBS on Sunday, said Congress will move "relatively soon" to hold public hearings but would not commit to wrapping up those hearings before Thanksgiving, which falls on Nov. 28 this year.

"Time is not constraining us," Hoyer said. "The truth and the facts are constraining us. We are going to move as soon as the facts and the truth dictate that we have."

According to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released on Sunday, exactly one year from the 2020 election, 49 percent of the respondents said Trump should not be impeached and removed from office, while 46 percent disagreed.

A GOP base remains loyal to Trump, with nine-in-10 Republicans opposing his removal from office, showed the poll.

"At this very early stage of the impeachment inquiry the data suggest a path for victory for Trump with the judges in the Senate," said Democratic pollster Jeff Horwitt of Hart Research.

The president will be impeached if the House approves any of the articles of impeachment that the Judiciary Committee has recommended by a simple majority vote.

But conviction of the president can only happen in the Senate and requires at least two-thirds of its members, or 67 senators, to vote in favor. Currently, the Senate has 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and two independents.

Tom Cole, a Republican congressman from Oklahoma, told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday that there is "very little likelihood that the president will be removed."

"We've made a political decision to put everything on hold, divide the country for an outcome that we know," Cole added.