Texas Republican reiterates call to protect Ukraine whistleblower’s identity

By Caitlin Oprysko

Republican Rep. Will Hurd on Sunday broke with members of his party who have been calling for the release of the Ukraine whistleblower’s identity, though he agreed with his party’s calls to have Hunter Biden testify in the first public impeachment hearings set to begin this week.

Hurd, a retiring Texas Republican who spent years in the CIA, told “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace that outing the whistleblower by compelling their testimony in a public hearing would send a chilling message to potential whistleblowers in the future.

“I think we should be protecting the identity of the whistleblower. I've said that from the very beginning because how we treat this whistleblower will impact whistleblowers in the future,” Hurd argued. “Having this whistleblower law on the books is important; it's important checks and balance are not only in the intelligence committee, but in our government.”

Some allies of President Donald Trump have agitated for the whistleblower, whose complaint this summer sparked the series of events leading to the ongoing impeachment inquiry, to come forward publicly, arguing the president deserves the chance to confront his accuser. They also argue the identity of the whistleblower is necessary to ascertain whether they have any political bias against the president, though the inspector general for the intelligence community found that despite an “arguable” bias, the whistleblower was still credible.

The whistleblower is on a list of witnesses Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee want to see testify this week and submitted to Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) this weekend, though Schiff has veto power over those requests and shut that notion down late Saturday.

While Republicans have clamored for the whistleblower’s public testimony, arguing that most of what the complaint contained is hearsay, nearly every accusation in the complaint has been independently confirmed over weeks of closed-door testimony from Trump administration officials.

Right-wing media outlets have been circulating a name they claim is the whistleblower's, prompting an outcry from lawyers representing the whistleblower and concerns about the whistleblower’s safety.

But while Hurd strayed from his party in calling for the continued protection of the whistleblower’s identity, he echoed their calls for another potential witness whose appearance Schiff suggested he would deny: Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden whose foreign business interests were at the root of Trump’s Ukraine pressure campaign.

“I would love to hear from Hunter Biden, I would love to hear from other Americans that served on the board of Burisma,” Hurd said, referring to the Ukrainian natural gas company that Biden sat on the board of. “I'm curious to know of someone who doesn't have any experience in Ukraine nor experience in a natural gas company comes on board of a natural gas company in Ukraine.

“We also need to hear and understand the corruption. We know corruption in the Ukraine is an issue,” Hurd continued, pointing to the testimony of numerous State Department officials. Trump and his allies, in a crusade led by Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, have asserted that Hunter Biden was hired by Burisma in 2015, while his father served as the U.S. point person on corruption in Ukraine, because of his family ties. There is no evidence indicating Hunter Biden had any influence on U.S. policy because of his position.

Schiff swatted down this request from Republicans on Saturday, saying the impeachment inquiries “will not serve, however, as a vehicle to undertake the same sham investigations into the Bidens or 2016 that the President pressed Ukraine to conduct for his personal political benefit.”