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Whistleblower to take questions in Trump impeachment probe

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Via Financial Times

The whistleblower who sparked the impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump has agreed to answer questions by House Republicans as the president’s allies step up efforts to unmask the anonymous CIA official.

On Sunday Mark Zaid, an attorney for the whistleblower, said that he had offered Devin Nunes, the top-ranking Republican on the House’s Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the opportunity to submit questions in writing to his client.

“[Questions] cannot seek identifying info, regarding which we will not provide, or otherwise be inappropriate,” Mr Zaid said. “We will ensure timely answers.”

President Trump and fellow Republicans have attacked the impeachment process as tainted and illegitimate. They accuse the whistleblower — who raised concerns that Mr Trump had pressured Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukrainian president, to investigate his political rival, Joe Biden, and the business dealings of his son Hunter — of being partisan. 

“The Whistleblower got it sooo wrong that HE must come forward,” the president said on Twitter on Sunday. “The Fake News Media knows who he is but, being an arm of the Democrat Party, don’t want to reveal him because there would be hell to pay.”

The president went further in response to reporters’ questions on the lawn of the White House, calling the whistleblower an “Obama person” and “anti-Trump.”

“But the whistleblower should be revealed because the whistleblower gave false stories. Some people would call it fraud.”

The impeachment hearings, which resume on Monday, have become a bitter partisan flashpoint in the lead-up to the 2020 president election.

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The White House has refused to co-operate with them, and The Financial Times has learnt that it has instructed Robert Blair, a top adviser to Mr Trump’s chief of staff, not to appear before the committees.

Mr Blair, a close adviser to acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, was due to appear on Monday, after being summoned by the House of Representatives panels pursuing the impeachment inquiry. He was not served him with a subpoena. But the White House has told Mr Blair not to appear on the grounds that the committees do not allow witnesses to have White House lawyers present when they testify, according to Whitney Ellerman, a lawyer for Mr Blair.

Mr Blair is one of the US officials who listened to the July 25 telephone call between Mr Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart that led to Mr Trump becoming the fourth American president to face impeachment proceedings. House investigators are examining whether Mr Trump applied pressure to Mr Zelensky to find dirt on Mr Biden, the former vice-president running for the Democratic presidential nomination, by withholding $391m in congressionally mandated military aid designed to help Ukraine respond to Russian threats.

“Mr Blair is caught between the assertions of legal duty by two coequal branches of government, a conflict which he cannot resolve,” Mr Ellerman told the FT. 

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