Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who is officiating the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, blocked Sen. Rand Paul’s attempt to identify the an alleged whistleblower central to Democrats’ allegations.
According to published reports on Thursday, Roberts declined to read the Kentucky Republican’s question to Democrat House impeachment managers because it would reveal publicly the whistleblower’s identity.
In interviews with reporters following Wednesday’s impeachment trial, which has reached a phase where both sides can present inquiries, Paul said he had not given up on his effort to identify President Trump’s primary accuser.
“It’s still an ongoing process; it may happen tomorrow,” he told reporters.
But other GOP senators appear to have sided with Roberts, including Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.).
“I don’t think that happens, and I guess I would hope that it doesn’t,” Thune said when asked if the whistleblower would be named.
Roberts has, thus far, offered no legal justification for refusing to allow Paul to identify the whistleblower, who alleged that Trump improperly asked for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to open a corruption probe into Joe and Hunter Biden during a phone call last year, in exchange for U.S. military aid.
That allegation was central to Democrats passing two articles of impeachment against the president in December.
The president has denied he implored Zelensky to start a probe in exchange for the aid. No probe was ever begun and the military aid was delivered after a short delay.
Experts have said that there is no statute prohibiting President Trump or members of Congress from divulging the name of an alleged whistleblower.
The only official prevented from identifying this particular individual is the Intelligence Community inspector general, Michael Atkinson.
“That appears to be the lone statutory restriction on disclosing a whistleblower’s identity, applicable only to the inspector general’s office. We found no court rulings on whether whistleblowers have a right to anonymity under the ICWPA or related statutes,” Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) confirmed during impeachment debate in November.
Constitutional experts note that under the Sixth Amendment, defendants have the right to face their accusers.