Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) got a round of applause during an impeachment hearing Wednesday when she said that President Donald Trump gets “five Pinocchios” a day.
The comment came during her questioning of Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union whose testimony incriminated many in Trump’s orbit who have been associated with the president’s attempted quid pro quo with Ukraine.
Before Speier’s turn, Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) used his five minutes to discuss a Washington Post column that fact-checked a claim made by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the committee’s chairman, that the whistleblower who set off the impeachment inquiry has a “statutory right” to anonymity. As an indication of Schiff’s correctness, the writer of the column gave the comments “three Pinocchios.”
When Speier brought up the whistleblower rules during her questioning, Conaway tried to interject by again bringing up the Post’s “three Pinocchios.”
“Well, the president of the United States has five Pinocchios on a daily basis, so let’s not go there,” Speier responded, receiving applause from those in the hearing room.
Schiff has repeatedly said that the whistleblower has a “statutory right” to anonymity, often urging witnesses to be cautious when Republicans have asked questions that could reveal that person’s identity.
According to the Post’s fact check, anonymity is not an explicit statutory right for whistleblowers, though national security experts warn that revealing the person’s identity would risk his or her safety.
Neither the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act of 1998 nor any similar statues have language guaranteeing anonymity. Those laws, according to the Post, instead provide protections from work-related retaliation: Whistleblowers in the intelligence community are not allowed to be demoted, fired or reassigned for legally reporting concerns; their pay can’t be cut; they can’t be sent in for psychiatric evaluations; and their security clearance can’t be manipulated.
The ICWPA implies anonymity “as a shield from other forms of workplace retaliation,” Irvin McCullough, a national security analyst at the nonprofit Government Accountability Project, told the Post.
Sondland was the first of three people to publicly testify Wednesday in the impeachment investigation into Trump. The EU ambassador started off his testimony by saying that “everyone” knew the president’s “desires and requirements” on Ukraine, and that there was a quid pro quo.
He also said that many officials in the Trump administration did not want to work with the president’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani but did so “at the express direction of the president.”