Schiff on why Democrats didn’t call the Ukraine whistleblower to testify

Despite two weeks of extraordinary impeachment hearings, which amassed a dozen witnesses and over 30 hours of testimony, there was one person the public and Democratic-led House of Representatives did not get to hear from: the still-anonymous whistleblower who triggered the impeachment inquiry into President Trump. 

House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) on Sunday told NBC “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd the committee wanted to call for the whistleblower’s testimony but declined to do so for a pair of reasons. 

“You did pledge that the intelligence committee would hear from the whistleblower in some form or another,” Todd said. “Are you going to fulfill that pledge?”

“We had a deep interest in having the whistleblower testify until two things happened,” Schiff said. “One, we were able to prove everything in the whistleblower complaint with witnesses that had firsthand information; and second, the president and his allies effectively put that whistleblower’s life in danger.”

He continued: “The president said the whistleblower and others should be treated as a traitor or a spy and we ought to use the penalty we used to use for traitors and spies and that’s the death penalty."

“So here’s the thing, Chuck, we don’t need the whistleblower secondhand evidence anymore,” Schiff added. “It would only serve to endanger this person and to gratify the president’s desire for retribution and that is not a good enough reason to bring in the whistleblower.”

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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)
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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)
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Trump, at the conclusion of the televised impeachment hearings, continued his calls for the whistleblower’s identity to be revealed as he lashed out at the inquiry in an interview with FOX & Friends last Friday

“The bottom line is all of those witnesses, they're all shifty Schiff, don't forget. There was no due process. You can't have lawyers. We couldn't have any witnesses. We want to call the whistleblower,” Trump said, before adding, “I want a trial” in the Senate if the House votes to impeach him. 

Meanwhile, the FBI recently sought to question the whistleblower, as Yahoo News first reported last week. No interview has been scheduled. 

The inquiry, which followed the whistleblower’s complaint over President Trump’s July 25 Ukraine call, is centered on the president’s efforts, conveyed through his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, to coerce the government of Ukraine to announce investigations that he thought would help his 2020 campaign, including of his potential opponent Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Part of the pressure on Ukraine involved the temporary withholding of military aid. 

While the public hearings have ended and Schiff  on CNN's "State of the Union said “the evidence that's been produced overwhelmingly shows serious misconduct by the president,” the Democratic lawmaker doesn’t “foreclose the possibility of more depositions, more hearings.”

“We are in the process of getting more documents all the time. So that investigative work is being done," he told host Jake Tapper. "What we're not going to do is wait months and months while the administration plays a game of rope-a-dope in an effort to try to stall. We're not willing to go down that road. And what's more, the evidence is already overwhelming.”

Schiff spoke about another potential witness, John Bolton, the president’s former national security adviser, who reemerged on Twitter last week amid the hearings and had refused to testify before Congress, but, as the Democratic leader acknowledged, would more likely testify before a Republican-majority Senate. 

“We have certainly been in touch with his lawyer. And what we have been informed by his lawyer -- because we invited him to come in, and he did not choose to come in and testify, notwithstanding the fact that his deputy Fiona Hill and his other deputy, Colonel Vindman, and Tim Morrison and others in the National Security Council have shown the courage to come in -- is, if we subpoena him, they will sue us in court,” Schiff told Tapper. 

“Now, he will have to explain one day if he maintains that position, why he wanted to wait to put it in a book, instead of telling the American people what he knew when it really mattered to the country,” he added.

Schiff, nodding to the possibility of upcoming investigations, told Todd “there are still other witnesses, other documents we would like to obtain" before articles of impeachment would be moved from the House likely before the year’s end.

When asked by Todd whether he would testify if called by the Senate in an impeachment trial in the event that the House impeaches Trump, Schiff said, “If the Senate wants to call me as a witness then they pretty much made the decision not to take this process seriously.”

“I’m not a fact witness,” he added.

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