House Democrats are allegedly working to mask the Ukraine scandal whistleblower’s identity from Republican lawmakers who are President Donald Trump’s allies in a potential effort to ensure the individual’s safety during testimony at a time when the president is actively trying to expose the person who wrote the bombshell complaint that sparked an impeachment inquiry.
Among the protocols Democrats are considering to protect the anonymous intelligence official include having the whistleblower testify remotely with an obscured appearance and voice, three unnamed officials familiar with the discussions told The Washington Post on Monday.
Other potential steps, according to the Post, include having the whistleblower testify behind a partition or testify via audio only. HuffPost could not independently confirm the considerations.
The alleged discussions represent a growing divide and lack of trust between parties in the House as the chamber’s Foreign Affairs, Oversight and Intelligence committees investigate Trump’s actions pressuring Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe Biden and his son while the president withheld nearly $400 million in approved U.S. military aid to the country.
The committee investigations are part of the impeachment inquiry, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Sept. 24 after reports surfaced of the whistleblower’s complaint and a summary of Trump’s July 25 call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was released by the White House that corroborated the whistleblower’s report.
The Post’s report about potential steps to mask the whistleblower’s identity comes a day after 90 former national security officials who served under both Democratic and Republican presidents signed an open letter defending the whistleblower and stressing the necessity of protecting the individual’s identity.
“Whatever one’s view of the matters discussed in the whistleblower’s complaint, all Americans should be united in demanding that all branches of our government and all outlets of our media protect this whistleblower and his or her identity,” the letter stated. “Simply put, he or she has done what our law demands; now he or she deserves our protection.”
The whistleblower’s attorneys have also voiced concern for their client’s safety, specifically after Trump falsely accused the individual of “treason” despite the whistleblower going through the appropriate channels to relay concerns. The president made veiled threats that the whistleblower should be “dealt with” in violent ways and has repeatedly demanded to meet the individual and find out the person’s identity.
“You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart with spies and treason, right?” Trump said, according to audio reported by the Los Angeles Times. “We used to handle it a little differently than we do now.”
Trump’s Republican allies in Congress and conservative media have joined the president in dismissing the whistleblower, accusing the individual of being politically biased.
“That’s Washington speak for, ‘They were out to get the President,’” tweeted Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the ranking member on the House Oversight Committee.
As part of their investigation, House Democrats also issued subpoenas on Monday to Defense Secretary Mark Esper and acting White House budget director Russell Vought. The Pentagon and the Office of Management and Budget have until Oct. 15 to comply.
The House has already sent out several other subpoenas, including to the White House, Vice President Mike Pence, Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Pompeo missed the Friday deadline for complying with his subpoena but said over the weekend that the State Department had sent a letter to Congress in response to the request.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, which is helping to lead the impeachment inquiry, warned last week that any stonewalling by the White House will be considered obstruction of justice.