WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The whistleblower who prompted an impeachment inquiry into U.S. President Donald Trump never met or spoke with congressman Adam Schiff, the Democrat leading impeachment hearings in Congress, a source familiar with the whistleblower’s contacts said.
In the weeks before Wednesday’s first public hearing in the impeachment inquiry, Republicans on the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee and other Trump supporters have suggested that Schiff personally met with the whistleblower.
“Remember how we got here?” U.S. Representative Devin Nunes, the senior Republican on the committee, told a Sinclair Broadcasting reporter in mid-October. “This was the chairman of the Intelligence Committee meeting with the whistleblower, and then the whistleblower going forward and hiring an attorney and then moving on from there.”
In his opening statement at the Intelligence Committee’s hearing on Wednesday, Nunes was more cautious, saying he knew committee staff had held “direct discussions” with the whistleblower before the official’s complaint was submitted to the intelligence community inspector general.
Nunes demanded to know what was the “full extent of Democrats’ coordination” with the whistleblower.
In response, committee Chairman Schiff denied even knowing the whistleblower’s identity.
The source familiar with the whistleblower’s contacts with investigators said allegations that Schiff met or had any other contact with the whistleblower were “completely false.”
The whistleblower did meet once with an Intelligence Committee staff member in late July in order to inquire about the congressional investigative process, the source said.
The source said the whistleblower and the committee staff member had known each other from prior work but their contacts had been “professional” and they were “not friends or close.”
He said the committee staffer told the whistleblower to hire a lawyer and speak to the intelligence community inspector general.
The whistleblower subsequently filed a complaint with the spy agency watchdog alleging that Trump pressured Ukraine’s president in a July 25 phone call to investigate one of Trump’s political rivals, Democratic presidential hopeful and former Vice President Joe Biden, over his son Hunter’s business dealings in Ukraine.
The whistleblower filed the complaint on Aug. 12 and the inspector general, Michael Atkinson, determined it was credible.
The whistleblower’s allegations, and evidence from multiple career U.S. government officials who dealt with issues related to Ukraine, fuelled moves by congressional Democrats to open the impeachment inquiry.
At the end of the Intelligence Committee’s first public hearing on Wednesday, the committee’s Democratic majority voted down a proposal by Republicans that the panel subpoena the whistleblower to give closed-door testimony.
A spokesman for Nunes did not respond to a request for comment about the source’s remarks.
Reporting by Mark Hosenball; editing by Jonathan Oatis