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Schiff, Nunes clash over questions that could point to whistleblower's identity

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffOVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Trump pardons Flynn | Lawmakers lash out at decision | Pentagon nixes Thanksgiving dining hall meals due to COVID-19 Democratic impeachment leaders blast Trump's pardon of Flynn Trump pardons Michael Flynn MORE (D-Calif.) clashed with Republicans on Tuesday after it appeared that Rep. Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesOvernight Defense: Trump loyalist to lead Pentagon transition | Democrats ask VA for vaccine distribution plan | Biden to get classified intel reports Ex-Nunes aide linked to Biden conspiracy theories will lead Pentagon transition Sunday shows preview: Biden transition, COVID-19 spike in spotlight MORE (R-Calif.), the panel's ranking member, was trying to zero in on the identity of the whistleblower who sparked an impeachment inquiry into President TrumpDonald John TrumpVenezuela judge orders prison time for 6 American oil executives Trump says he'll leave White House if Biden declared winner of Electoral College The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation MORE.

Nunes questioned Lt. Col. Alexander VindmanAlexander VindmanEsper: If my replacement is 'a real yes man' then 'God help us' Ukrainian president whose call with Trump sparked impeachment congratulates Biden Alexander Vindman congratulates Biden, Harris on election victory MORE, a Ukraine specialist on the White House National Security Council (NSC), during a public hearing on the anonymous whistleblower who initially brought up concerns around a phone call between Trump and Ukraine's president in July.

Vindman said he had had discussions with two officials who were “properly cleared individuals with a need-to-know” basis for such information.

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Vindman identified a member in the intelligence community and George Kent, a senior State Department official who testified publicly last week.

Nunes then asked which intelligence agency the whistleblower works in, at which point Schiff intervened.

Schiff noted that he wanted to “make sure there is no effort to out the whistleblower through the use of these proceedings."

"If the witness has a good-faith belief that this may reveal the identity of the whistleblower, this is not the purpose that we are here for, and I want to advise the witness accordingly,” the California Democrat added.

Several Republican lawmakers seated in the public viewing gallery immediately reacted with an “Ah ha,” to Schiff’s interjection.

Nunes protested, saying it was the Republicans' time to question the witness, but both Schiff and Vindman’s lawyer said they would not participate in efforts to identify the person who first came forward with allegations about Trump’s July 25 phone call.

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Vindman said that he did not know the identity of the whistleblower, but also noted that he had been “advised not to answer specific questions about members of the intelligence community.”

Nunes told Vindman that he could either “answer my question or plead the Fifth,” referring to the Fifth Amendment.

Vindman still refused to identify the whistleblower.

At one point, Vindman also corrected Nunes on his title after the California Republican addressed him as “Mr. Vindman.”

"Ranking member, it's Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, please,” he said.

Republicans have repeatedly called for the whistleblower’s identity to be revealed and for the person to give a deposition, requests that Schiff blocked last week.