Whistle-Blower Willing to Answer Republicans’ Questions, Lawyer Says

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WASHINGTON — The whistle-blower who touched off an impeachment inquiry with his explosive complaint about President Trump’s effort to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rivals is willing to answer House Republicans’ written questions, his legal team said on Sunday.

The offer is intended to deter Republican attacks and show that the whistle-blower, a C.I.A. officer, is above the political rancor unleashed by House Democrats’ inquiry. Led by Mr. Trump, House Republicans have assailed the whistle-blower as politically motivated and demanded his identity be revealed.

Mark S. Zaid, a lawyer for the whistle-blower, directly challenged those attacks on Sunday. “Being a whistleblower is not a partisan job nor is impeachment an objective,” he wrote in a long statement on Twitter. “That is not our role.”

He continued: “We stand ready to cooperate and ensure facts — rather than partisanship — dictates any process involving the #whistleblower.”

Mr. Zaid said that his client would provide answers in writing under oath, but would not respond to any “inappropriate” questions, including those seeking identifying information.

The offer seemed unlikely to satisfy Republicans. A senior Republican aide working on the impeachment inquiry dismissed it on Sunday, saying Republicans believed that the whistle-blower needed to come before the House in person, under oath.

Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the Republican leader, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that he was not aware of the offer, but also reiterated his desire to have the whistle-blower “come forward in an open hearing.”

“When you’re talking about the removal of the president of the United States, undoing democracy, undoing what the American people had voted for, I think that individual should come before the committee,” Mr. McCarthy said. “He can come down to the basement, but he needs to answer the questions.”

Republicans argue that Democrats’ willingness to forgo testimony should raise red flags about the whistle-blower’s role.

House Democrats, for their part, have maintained that hearing from the whistle-blower is not necessary, and have stressed the importance of protecting his identity and safety. Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, has argued that a transcript of Mr. Trump’s call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine in which he asks him for “a favor” is already public and that House investigators have already collected a tranche of damning testimony and evidence, including from sources with more direct information.

The whistle-blower’s lawyers have also expressed concerns for his safety, in part citing attacks on him by the president, who targeted him again on Sunday.

“The whistle-blower should be revealed, because the whistle-blower gave false stories,” Mr. Trump told reporters. “Some people would call it fraud. I won’t go that far, but when I read it closely, I probably would.”

The whistle-blower had previously offered to answer questions under oath and in writing if submitted by the Intelligence Committee as a whole, but not specifically by Republicans. His legal team first made the new offer over the weekend to Representative Devin Nunes of California, the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee, CBS News first reported. A spokesman for Mr. Nunes did not immediately respond on Sunday to a request for comment.

The offer comes as Democrats leading the inquiry are preparing this week to wrap up the private fact-finding portion of the inquiry, which has been conducted almost entirely in the closed chambers of the House Intelligence Committee. As soon as next week, Democratic lawmakers and aides say, the Intelligence Committee could begin public hearings featuring prominent administration officials intended to present a case to the public. Those hearings are also likely to give an even greater platform to intense sparring by the two parties.

Before then, though, investigators have scheduled almost a dozen additional private witness depositions, beginning Monday. It is unclear how many of those called to testify will appear, given Trump administration orders not to cooperate. Unlike earlier witnesses, many of whom were nonpartisan career officials, investigators are now trying to secure sessions with senior Trump administration political appointees who may be less likely to buck the White House’s wishes, even under subpoena.

Investigators issued subpoenas late Friday for John A. Eisenberg, the top legal adviser to the National Security Council, and Brian McCormack, the former chief of staff to Energy Secretary Rick Perry, to answer questions on Monday. It was unclear whether they would show up. A lawyer for at least one other witness scheduled for a Monday deposition, Robert Blair, indicated over the weekend that his client would not show up. Mr. Blair is the national security adviser to the acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney.

House Democrats have called Mr. Perry to sit for questioning on Wednesday, and John R. Bolton, the president’s former national security adviser who was said to be alarmed by pressure he saw being put on Ukraine, on Thursday. Their appearances are also in doubt.

Mr. McCarthy on Sunday also brought up another witness he wants to question: Mr. Schiff. He named the chairman of the Intelligence Committee and his aides as “the very first person we should bring.”

“He is the only person who knows who this whistle-blower is,” Mr. McCarthy said. “How many times did he meet with the whistle-blower? What did he talk to the whistle-blower about?”

The Republican leader was ostensibly referring to an October report by The New York Times that the C.I.A. officer approached a House Intelligence Committee aide with vague concerns about Mr. Trump, after he had a colleague first convey them to the C.I.A.’s top lawyer.

Allies of Mr. Trump on Capitol Hill have floated for weeks the idea of trying to question Mr. Schiff, but even some of the president’s staunchest defenders have brushed it off. Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, told reporters last month that he was resisting pressure from Republicans to call Mr. Schiff to testify and that doing so would “cause a lot of damage to the country.”

Republicans have toiled to settle on an effective message with which to defend Mr. Trump since the whistle-blower’s complaint was released. On Sunday, Kellyanne Conway, the White House counselor, said that if Mr. Trump withheld aid from Ukraine in return for investigations of his political opponents, that would not be an impeachable offense.

But even as Mr. Trump reiterated on Sunday that there was “not at all” a quid pro quo, Ms. Conway was less definitive.

“I don’t know whether aid was being held up and for how long,” Ms. Conway said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

She added that the aid eventually flowed to Ukraine. That happened two days after the inspector general for the intelligence community informed the House Intelligence Committee of the whistle-blower’s complaint.

Chris Cameron contributed reporting.