The closed-door deposition of a key witness in the impeachment inquiry reportedly erupted into a shouting match between Democratic and Republicans Tuesday, over claims that the GOP was trying to manipulate a witness into unmasking the whistleblower who sparked impeachment proceedings.
As lawmakers Tuesday interviewed Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman — the top Ukraine official on the National Security Counsel —Democrats said that Republicans present were seeking to trick the official into disclosing the identity of the whistleblower.
Two sources told CNN that in two depositions of witnesses in the impeachment probe — including that of Vindman — GOP lawmakers have put forward names of officials in the course of questioning and in deposition records which could fit the description of the whistleblower.
The whistleblower raised concerns over a July 25 call by President Donald Trump to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in which he asked for Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden. These concerns are what prompted Democrats to pursue impeachment proceedings against Trump.
By getting witnesses to confirm or deny that an official was privy to the information that led to the complaint, the accusation goes, the Republicans sought to narrow down their list of suspects, and so identify the official in public.
The accusation was denied by Republicans, leading to a heated confrontation during the deposition.
In a statement to reporters after the deposition, House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Adam accused Republicans of trying to "out" the whistleblower, which he said he would not allow.
"We will make every effort to make sure that notwithstanding the president or his allies' desire to out and exact political revenge on this whistleblower, that our committee is never used for that purpose," Schiff said in a brief statement to reporters, as quoted by Reuters.
Rep. Jim Jordan, one of the Republican lawmakers who questioned the witness, denied that this was the reason behind his line of questioning and that of other Republicans.
He said that he and his colleagues want to know whom Vindman had been speaking to in order to better understand the context around the call, but not to make his identity public.
Jordan said that Republican lawmakers need to interview the whistleblower themselves to assess their credibility, a move Democrats have so far resisted.
"It's tough to determine someone's credibility if you can't put them under oath and ask them questions," Jordan told reporters.