The Democratic congressman leading the impeachment inquiry is allegedly withholding the transcript of an 8-hour interview with a key witness because he does not want Americans to learn the answers to questions about his office’s involvement with the anonymous whistleblower whose complaint prompted the Democrats’ impeachment effort — so claims House Judiciary Committee member John Ratcliffe (R-TX).
The Texas Republican has made headlines during the public inquiry for strongly pushing back against the Democrats’ impeachment narrative, including when he stacked up thousands of pages of transcripts from interviews in which not a single witness so much as uttered the words “bribery” or “bribe” in reference to any of Trump’s actions related to Ukraine, striking at the heart of the Democrats’ case.
One of the transcripts that has been conspicuously missing from the thousands of pages released by Schiff, however, is the transcript of the committee’s interview with Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, an omission noted on Friday by Real Clear Investigations’ Paul Sperry.
“Why is Schiff still withholding transcript of ICIG Michael Atkinson’s Oct 4 closed-door testimony which lasted 8+ hours?” asked Sperry. “He’s released 15 witness transcripts but is still hiding Atkinson’s. Also, what’s Atkinson’s connection to Obama officials including David Laufman?”
DEVELOPING: Why is Schiff still withholding transcript of ICIG Michael Atkinson's Oct 4 closed-door testimony which lasted 8+ hours? He's released 15 witness transcripts but is still hiding Atkinson's. Also, what's Atkinson's connection to Obama officials including David Laufman?
— Paul Sperry (@paulsperry_) November 30, 2019
In response, Congressman Ratcliffe provided a suggestive answer.
“I know why [Paul Sperry]. It’s because I asked IG Atkinson about his ‘investigation’ into the contacts between Schiff’s staff and the person who later became the whistleblower. The transcript is classified ‘secret’ so Schiff can prevent you from seeing the answers to my questions.”
I know why @paulsperry_ It’s because I asked IG Atkinson about his “investigation” into the contacts between Schiff’s staff and the person who later became the whistleblower. The transcript is classified “secret” so Schiff can prevent you from seeing the answers to my questions
— John Ratcliffe (@RepRatcliffe) November 30, 2019
In his attempts to keep the whistleblower’s identity under wraps, Schiff has repeatedly shut down questions that could in any way reveal or point to the whistleblower’s identity. But Ratcliffe’s response suggests that Schiff is abusing that “protection” for the whistleblower to also protect himself from further scrutiny about his involvement with the whistleblower leading up to the filing of the complaint.
Schiff’s consultation with the whistleblower before the complaint was filed was first revealed in an October 2 report by The New York Times, which also highlighted the role of Inspector General Atkinson.
“The Democratic head of the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, learned about the outlines of a C.I.A. officer’s concerns that President Trump had abused his power days before the officer filed a whistle-blower complaint, according to a spokesman and current and former American officials,” the Times reported. “The early account by the future whistle-blower … explains how Mr. Schiff knew to press for the complaint when the Trump administration initially blocked lawmakers from seeing it.”
“The C.I.A. officer approached a House Intelligence Committee aide with his concerns about Mr. Trump only after he had had a colleague first convey them to the C.I.A.’s top lawyer,” the report continued. “Concerned about how that initial avenue for airing his allegations through the C.I.A. was unfolding, the officer then approached the House aide. In both cases, the original accusation was vague. The House staff member, following the committee’s procedures, suggested the officer find a lawyer to advise him and meet with an inspector general, with whom he could file a whistle-blower complaint.”
The Times made clear that Schiff himself was made aware of the complaint. “The aide shared some of what the officer conveyed to Mr. Schiff,” the Times reported, adding that the aide “did not share the whistle-blower’s identity with Mr. Schiff,” according to one official.
“The future whistle-blower went to Mr. Schiff’s committee after he grew concerned about the first investigation he had touched off,” the Times explained. “The C.I.A. officer decided the complaint he had brought to Ms. Elwood was at risk of being swept aside, prompting him to go to the lawmakers who conduct oversight of the intelligence agencies. He followed the advice of Mr. Schiff’s aide and filed his complaint to Mr. Atkinson. And though Mr. Maguire blocked him from forwarding it to Congress, he did allow Mr. Atkinson to notify lawmakers of its existence.”