After House Democrats kicked off their impeachment hearings against President Trump on Wednesday, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., claimed he has no knowledge of the Ukraine whistleblower's identity, despite reports of his staff meeting with the person in secret.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio., who was recently reassigned to the committee, interjected to point out that Schiff is the only member of Congress to have spoken with the whistleblower directly and asked that the rest of the chamber be given the same opportunity.
Schiff denied knowing the whistleblower's identity and claimed Jordan was making false statements.
"Do you anticipate when we might vote on the ability to have the whistleblower in front of us... [Out of] the 435 members of Congress, you are the only member who knows who that individual is," Jordan said. "And your staff is the only staff of any member of Congress who's had a chance to talk with that individual. We would like that opportunity. When might that happen in this proceeding today?"
"First, as the gentleman knows, that’s a false statement," Schiff replied. "I do not know the identity of the whistleblower and I’m determined to make sure that identity is protected. But as I said... you’ll have an opportunity after the witnesses testify to make a motion to subpoena any witness and compel a vote."
Republicans in the room reportedly "laughed and sneered" when Schiff made the dubious statement, as many expressed doubts on Twitter.
Schiff's claims seem to clash with past statements he made about his staff having contact with the whistleblower and his admission that he should have been more transparent about the private encounter.
“I should have been much more clear,” Schiff said during an interview on CBS’ “Face The Nation.”
Fox News reported last month that the whistleblower did not disclose contact with Schiff’s staff to the intelligence committee inspector general (ICIG).
Schiff’s office acknowledged that the whistleblower had reached out to them before filing a complaint in mid-August, giving Democrats advance warning of the accusations that would lead them to launch an impeachment inquiry days later.
Some GOP lawmakers, including Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., have pushed to make the whistleblower's identity public and claim the president's constitutional right to face his accuser trumps any anonymity he or she may have been granted under whistleblower statutes.
"We will do everything necessary to protect the whistleblower's identity and I am disturbed to hear members of the committee who have in the past voiced strong support for whistleblower protections, seek to undermine those protections by outing the whistleblower," Schiff said during Wednesday's hearing.
Fox News Andrew O'Reilly contributed to this report.