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Shouting match erupts in Vindman deposition as Democrats accuse Republicans of trying to out whistleblower

Posted October 29, 2019 2:32 p.m. EDT

— Democrats and Republicans got into a shouting match behind closed doors on Tuesday while interviewing a witness in the impeachment investigation, with Democrats accusing Republicans of trying to out the anonymous whistleblower who sparked the impeachment inquiry, according to five sources from both parties.

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff objected to a line of questioning from Republicans during the deposition of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council official in charge of Ukraine policy, charging that the GOP questions were part of an effort to out the whistleblower, sources said.

Republicans pushed back, arguing they were simply asking questions about who Vindman might have spoken with — and that it was not an effort to out the whistleblower.

The back-and-forth led to a heated exchange between Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell of California and GOP Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, according to multiple sources. Other members joined in.

Lawmakers said Vindman testified he did not know who the whistleblower was.

"What the Republicans are trying to do in there, very clearly in their questioning, is try to front-door or backdoor Lt. Col. Vindman into revealing who the whistleblower is, even though in his testimony, he said he didn't know," said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Florida Democrat. "They are trying to, through the back door and through process of elimination by their questions, they are attempting to get him to reveal that, and they have been unsuccessful."

But Meadows pushed back on the Democratic accusations.

"How can we out someone when we don't know he is," Meadows told reporters Tuesday afternoon.

He said that the Democrats' accusations that Republicans are trying to out the whistleblower are "not accurate."

"I've not been on any fishing expedition," he said. "I only ask questions we know the answer to."

One GOP lawmaker, however, who asked not to be named given that the depositions are happening behind closed doors, did not push back that Republicans are trying to figure out who the whistleblower is in the depositions.

"I think we would like to know — with whistleblower protections in mind — we would like to hear from the whistleblower and we would also like to know who the whistleblower talked to," the GOP lawmaker said. "We got one guy who is trying to bring down the President of the United States and we cannot even hear from that person."

In his opening statement, Vindman testified that he was so troubled by Trump's July phone call with Ukraine's President that he reported his concerns to a superior.

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