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Whistleblower willing to answer direct questions, attorney says

President Donald Trump speaks to reporters upon arrival

President Donald Trump speaks to reporters upon arrival at the White House in Washington, Sunday, Nov. 3. Credit: AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta

WASHINGTON — The U.S. intelligence whistleblower whose complaint launched the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump is willing to answer questions directly from House Republicans, his attorney said Sunday.

Attorney Mark Zaid, in a series of tweets, said the whistleblower's legal team has reached out to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, to convey the whistleblower's willingness to answer questions "in writing, under oath [and] penalty of perjury."

The offer came as Trump on Sunday ramped up his calls for the individual's identity to be revealed despite federal laws protecting government whistleblowers, and as top Democrats making the Sunday talk show rounds signaled that the public impeachment inquiry hearings would be launched "very soon."

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) has previously said it's not necessary for the whistleblower to testify, because the allegations concerning Trump's dealings with Ukraine have since been corroborated by other State Department and White House officials who have testified before the panel. Schiff has raised concerns about the whistleblower's safety, but Trump and House Republicans have argued the individual should testify publicly. 

"We stand ready to cooperate and ensure facts — rather than partisanship — dictates any process involving the [whistleblower]," Zaid said in a Sunday tweet.

House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), appearing on CBS' “Face the Nation," called the offer insufficient, arguing that the whistleblower should appear before lawmakers, alongside the officials cited in the whistleblower's initial complaint that detailed Trump's push to have Ukraine investigate unfounded claims about the Democratic National Committee and former Vice President Joe Biden.

“I think if the whistleblower should come forward in an open hearing and also bring the six people that he talks about inside his complaint that he said talked about other issues as well,” McCarthy said.

Trump on Twitter said the whistleblower "must come forward" and accused the media of concealing the identity of the whistleblower whose identity is protected by federal whistleblower statutes.

"Reveal the Whistleblower and end the Impeachment Hoax!" Trump tweeted.

After weeks of closed-door depositions with top State Department and White House officials, top Democrats said they were inching closer to open hearings.

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told ABC’s “This Week,” that the trio of House committees probing Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, were expecting “the last of the witnesses” to testify this week “and then ... the transcripts will be released” from the closed-door sessions.

“There will be public hearings very very soon,” Engel told “This Week” host George Stephanopoulos.

Engel’s assertion came as Trump on Twitter continued to defend the request now at the heart of the impeachment inquiry as “totally appropriate” and “perfect.”

Top Democrats promised transcripts of the sessions would be released in the coming week, but were reluctant to give a definitive answer about when the public hearings would start.

“We are going to move as soon as the facts and the truth dictate,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) when pressed about a timeline during an appearance on “Face the Nation.”

Hoyer said the public hearings would be held “relatively soon,” but when asked by “Face the Nation” host Margaret Brennan whether the public hearings would be wrapped up before Congress breaks for Thanksgiving, or whether the hearings would stretch into December, Hoyer said he couldn’t answer because there were several variables in play.

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), who sits on the House Intelligence and Oversight committees, two of the panels leading the probe into Trump, told “Face the Nation” she believed the public hearings would be launched in two weeks and said transcripts of the closed-door hearings would be released publicly “probably within the next five days.”

“I don’t know if they’re all going to be released on the same day, but they’re going to be very telling to the American people,” Speier said.

Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) told Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace his “best guess” was that the public hearings would kick off in “the next two or three weeks.”

House Democrats voted last week on formal rules for the impeachment inquiry, but House Republicans and White House counselor Kellyanne Conway on the Sunday show circuit continued to question the legitimacy of the impeachment inquiry.

Asked if the White House would comply with congressional subpoenas now that formal procedures have been adopted, Conway told Fox News' Wallace that Trump “has every right” to continue exerting executive privilege to block administration officials from testifying.

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