House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff quickly interrupted LTC Alexander Vindman’s testimony Tuesday when Vindman admitted that he had spoken to others about the Ukraine call.
Ranking Republican member Devin Nunes was following a line of questioning into the July 25 phone call between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, asking who Vindman might have spoken to about the call and his concerns about the implications of that call.
“Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, did you discuss the July 25th phone call with anyone outside the White House on July 25th or the 26th and if so with whom?” Nunes asked.(RELATED: Devin Nunes Blasts Impeachment Hearing As ‘Low-Rent Ukrainian Sequel’ To ‘Russia Hoax’)
“Yes. I did,” Vindman replied. “My core function is to coordinate U.S. Government policy and I spoke to two individual with regards to providing a — some sort of readout of the call … Not in the White House. Cleared U.S. Government officials with the appropriate need to know.”
“And what agencies were these officials with?” Nunes pressed.
Vindman said that one of the people he spoke to was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent, who testified before the committee last week. He also said that he told an unnamed official within the intelligence community. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Ann Coulter On Impeachment: ‘Who Cares If It’s Quid Pro Quo?’)
“As you know, the intelligence community has 17 different agencies. What agency was this individual from?” Nunes asked for clarification, at which point Schiff interrupted.
“If I could interject here. We don’t want to use the proceedings —” Schiff began.
“It’s our time,” Nunes protested.
“But we need to protect the whistle-blower. Please stop. I want to make sure that there is no effort to out the whistle-blower through these proceedings. If the witness has a good faith belief that this may reveal the identity of the whistle-blower, that is not the purpose that we’re here for. I want to advise the witness accordingly,” Schiff continued. (RELATED: ‘Puppets Of The Democratic Party’: Devin Nunes Criticizes Media’s Impeachment Coverage)
Nunes pointed out then that LTC Vindman had, in his depostion, stated that he did not know the identity of the whistleblower — which Vindman confirmed. “How it is possible for you to name the people and then out the whistle-blower?” Nunes asked then.
“Per the advice of my counsel, I have been advised not to answer specific questions about members of the intelligence community,” Vindman said.
“This is — are you aware this is the Intelligence Committee that is conducting the impeachment hearing?” Nunes asked. “Wouldn’t it be appropriate for you to come to testify to the intelligence community about somebody about the intelligence community?”
Vindman repeated his objection and clarified only that the person or people he spoke to “were properly cleared individuals or was a properly cleared individual with a need to know.”
“This is — you can really plead the fifth,” Nunes pushed back. “But you’re here to answer questions and you’re here under subpoena. So you can either answer the question or you can plead the fifth.”
Vindman’s attorney jumped to his defense, saying that he was only following the rules set forth by the chair. Schiff concurred, repeating his concern that the hearing not be used as an attempt to out the whistleblower. (RELATED: White House Official Sues Politico, Alleging Collusion With Adam Schiff)
“Well, we’ve attempted to subpoena the whistle-blower,” Nunes said. “The Chair has tabled that motion and has an unwilling to recognize those motions over the last few days of this impeachment inquisition process.”