Source: Whistleblower never met or talked with Schiff

WASHINGTON, Nov 13 (Reuters) - The whistleblower who prompted an impeachment inquiry into U.S. President Donald Trump never met or spoke with congressman Adam Schiff, the Democrat leading impeachment hearings in Congress, a source familiar with the whistleblower's contacts said.

In the weeks before Wednesday's first public hearing in the impeachment inquiry, Republicans on the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee and other Trump supporters have suggested that Schiff personally met with the whistleblower.

"Remember how we got here?" U.S. Representative Devin Nunes, the senior Republican on the committee, told a Sinclair Broadcasting reporter in mid-October. "This was the chairman of the Intelligence Committee meeting with the whistleblower, and then the whistleblower going forward and hiring an attorney and then moving on from there."

In his opening statement at the Intelligence Committee's hearing on Wednesday, Nunes was more cautious, saying he knew committee staff had held "direct discussions" with the whistleblower before the official's complaint was submitted to the intelligence community inspector general.

Nunes demanded to know what was the "full extent of Democrats' coordination" with the whistleblower.

In response, committee Chairman Schiff denied even knowing the whistleblower's identity.

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U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence ranking member Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) speaks with reporters at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., March 24, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
House Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) and Ranking Member Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) speak with the media about the ongoing Russia investigation on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S. March 15, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
House Intelligence Committee ranking Democrat Adam Schiff (D-CA) reacts to Committee Chairman Devin Nunes statements about surveillance of U.S. President Trump and his staff as well as his visit to the White House, during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., March 22, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
U.S. Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA) speaks at a town hall meeting on healthcare reform in Alhambra, California, August 11, 2009. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok (UNITED STATES HEALTH POLITICS)
Ranking member Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) (R) speak during the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on Russian actions during the 2016 election campaign on March 20, 2017 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. / AFP PHOTO / Mandel Ngan (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
MEET THE PRESS -- Pictured: (l-r) Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) appears on 'Meet the Press' in Washington, D.C., Sunday, March 19, 2017. (Photo by: William B. Plowman/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) speaks during a news conference discussing Russian sanctions on Capitol Hill February 15, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP / ZACH GIBSON (Photo credit should read ZACH GIBSON/AFP/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - NOVEMBER 27: Adam Schiff arrives at the 85th Annual Hollywood Christmas Parade on November 27, 2016 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Tara Ziemba/WireImage)
GLENDALE, CA - OCTOBER 07: Congressman Adam Schiff poses with guests at the HAAS Spine And Orthopaedics Official Opening Reception held at HAAS Spine & Orthopaedics Center on October 7, 2016 in Glendale, California. (Photo by Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JULY 27: Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., speaks at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on Wednesday, July 27, 2016. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JULY 25: Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., walks through the crowd on the floor of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on Monday, July 25, 2016. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The source familiar with the whistleblower's contacts with investigators said allegations that Schiff met or had any other contact with the whistleblower were "completely false."

The whistleblower did meet once with an Intelligence Committee staff member in late July in order to inquire about the congressional investigative process, the source said.

The source said the whistleblower and the committee staff member had known each other from prior work but their contacts had been "professional" and they were "not friends or close."

He said the committee staffer told the whistleblower to hire a lawyer and speak to the intelligence community inspector general.

The whistleblower subsequently filed a complaint with the spy agency watchdog alleging that Trump pressured Ukraine's president in a July 25 phone call to investigate one of Trump's political rivals, Democratic presidential hopeful and former Vice President Joe Biden, over his son Hunter's business dealings in Ukraine.

The whistleblower filed the complaint on Aug. 12 and the inspector general, Michael Atkinson, determined it was credible.

The whistleblower's allegations, and evidence from multiple career U.S. government officials who dealt with issues related to Ukraine, fueled moves by congressional Democrats to open the impeachment inquiry.

At the end of the Intelligence Committee's first public hearing on Wednesday, the committee's Democratic majority voted down a proposal by Republicans that the panel subpoena the whistleblower to give closed-door testimony.

A spokesman for Nunes did not respond to a request for comment about the source's remarks. (Reporting by Mark Hosenball; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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