This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
U.S. President Donald Trump wants to face his “accuser” in a rebuke of a whistle-blower’s account that he pressured Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskiy to investigate a political rival, which prompted a congressional impeachment inquiry that is scheduled to start hearings and depositions this week.
In a series of social media posts on September 29, Trump said he wanted to meet the whistle-blower, whom he called “my accuser,” as well as the “the person who illegally gave this information” to the whistle-blower.
“Was this person SPYING on the U.S. President? Big Consequences!” Trump, a Republican, wrote.
The weekly news program 60 Minutes reported the same day that the whistle-blower was under federal protection after receiving threats.
The whistle-blower’s complaint cited a July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelenskiy during which the U.S. president allegedly told his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, currently a Democratic front-runner in next year’s presidential election, and his son Hunter.
Hunter Biden sat on the board of a Ukrainian gas company when his father worked in then-President Barack Obama’s administration.
No evidence of wrongdoing has surfaced regarding either of the Bidens.
The Trump-Zelenskiy phone call came shortly after the United States withheld almost $400 million in military funding to Ukraine, causing concern that the president was using money approved by Congress for his personal advantage.
Meanwhile, congressional democrats said over the weekend that they were moving at a rapid pace in their impeachment investigation.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Democrat-California) told her fellow party members that they need “to strike while the iron is hot” on impeachment.
Congressman Adam Schiff (Democrat-California), chairman of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee, said his committee was moving “expeditiously” on hearings and subpoenas. That committee, as well as two others that are working under one umbrella, have scheduled depositions starting this week with State Department officials linked to Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.
Democrats are aiming to finish their probe in a matter of weeks — even toward the end of November — the AP news agency reported, after which their findings would be sent to the House Judiciary Committee, which oversees the impeachment process in that legislative chamber.
Meanwhile, Schiff has said he will seek access to transcripts of Trump’s telephone conversations with foreign leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin.
He said on NBC television on September 29 that he believes it is important to “see whether in the conversations with other world leaders, and in particular with Putin, that the president was also undermining our security in a way that he thought would personally benefit his [reelection] campaign.”
The whistle-blower’s complaint also alleged that White House officials had placed records of the Zelenskiy phone call and those of other possibly problematic conversations on a secret computer server reserved for national-security matters.
“If those conversations with Putin or with other world leaders are sequestered in that same electronic file that is meant for covert action, not meant for this, if there’s an effort to hide those and cover those up, yes, we’re determined to find out,” Schiff told NBC.
The Intelligence Committee has reached an agreement to have the whistle-blower – who has not been identified publicly — testify before the panel in the near future, Schiff later told ABC television.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on September 27 said it would be “inappropriate” for Trump to release transcripts of his conversations with Putin.
“It is indecent,” he said. “For two people elected by their nations to be at the helm, there are diplomatic manners that suppose a certain level of confidentiality.”
Republican lawmakers and Trump administration officials made appearances on news programs to criticize the probes and reject the allegations as hyper-partisanship.
Congressman Devin Nunes (Republican-California) said Democrats “don’t want answers, they want a public spectacle.”
“They have been trying to reverse the results of the 2016 [presidential] election since President Trump took office,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Republican-California).
Stephen Miller, the president’s senior policy adviser, called the inquiry a “partisan hit job” coordinated by “a deep state operative” who is also “a saboteur.”