As Senators gathered for the last day of questioning in President Trump’s impeachment trial, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul found his question censored in a way that may have revealed the identity of the mysterious whistleblower.
With the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump nearing its final stages, senators gathered on Capitol Hill on Thursday to question the Democratic prosecution team, and Trump’s defense attorneys. However, Paul (R-Kentucky) found his question shot down by presiding Chief Justice John Roberts, who declined “to read the question as submitted.”
Paul left the chamber after Roberts’ denial.
Taking to Twitter afterwards, Paul revealed that he planned on asking whether Obama-era “partisans” within Trump’s National Security Council conspired with House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff to engineer impeachment proceedings against Trump, by sounding the alarm on the now-infamous July phone call between Trump and Ukrainain President Volodymyr Zelensky.
“Are you aware that House intelligence committee staffer Shawn Misko had a close relationship with Eric Ciaramella while at the National Security Council together,” Paul’s question read. “And are you aware and how do you respond to reports that Ciaramella and Misko may have worked together to plot impeaching the president before there were formal House impeachment proceedings.”
Ciaramella, a CIA analyst, is widely believed to be the ‘whistleblower’ who kickstarted the impeachment inquiry by alleging that Trump tried to strong-arm Zelensky into reopening a corruption investigation into Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, and his business activities in Ukraine.
According to a recent RealClearPolitics report, Ciaramella was reportedly overheard in 2017 “plotting” with Misko to have Trump “removed from office.”
Schiff, the lead prosecutor in the impeachment trial, has both denied knowing the identity of the whistleblower and called the report of Ciaramella’s plot a “conspiracy theory.” Schiff has also repeatedly warned Republicans against naming the whistleblower, citing a need to protect his or her identity – though no statutory requirement for that actually exists.
However, Roberts’ refusal to read Ciaramella’s name and the media furor that followed Paul’s question – with mostly liberal pundits hounding the senator for “naming the whistleblower” – all but confirms that he is indeed Schiff’s source. Paul never mentioned the term “whistleblower” in his written question, yet Roberts still refused to read Ciaramella’s name. Earlier, Roberts had vowed not to read any question that might “out” the whistleblower.
Roberts was not compelled to censor Paul’s question by law. Rather, his decision was a personal one. Contrary to Schiff, the whistleblower does not enjoy a “statutory right to anonymity.” If Ciaramella is indeed the whistleblower, his only guarantee is that the intelligence community inspector-general may not name him as such.
Senators will likely vote on Friday on whether to allow testimony from additional witnesses, beyond those heard during the inquiry led by House Democrats. While Democrats have pushed for testimony from former National Security Advisor John Bolton, some Republicans have argued that if they even agree to witnesses, they intend to call on the whistleblower, conclusively revealing their identity and giving Trump his constitutional right to confront his accuser.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made clear that he will move to block any additional witnesses from testifying, bringing the trial to a speedy conclusion and acquittal as soon as possible.