House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., gave strict orders Sunday to President Trump not to “intimidate” the whistleblower who sparked the House impeachment inquiry – while challenging the president to testify before Congress himself if he wants to set the record straight.
"The president could come right before the committee and talk, speak all the truth that he wants if he wants. He has every opportunity to present his case," she said in an interview that aired Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation."
Pelosi extended the invitation ahead of a jam-packed week of witness testimony in the impeachment inquiry. She said lawmakers would "look forward" to seeing any information from Trump "that is exculpatory, that means ex, taking away, culpable, blame."
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer echoed that suggestion.
"If Donald Trump doesn't agree with what he's hearing, doesn't like what he's hearing, he shouldn't tweet. He should come to the committee and testify under oath. And he should allow all those around him to come to the committee and testify under oath," Schumer told reporters.
The challenge was paired with Pelosi's warning not to go after the whistleblower in any way -- though Democrats initially had indicated that the whistleblower could testify, only to back off and now urge Trump to testify instead.
"I will make sure he does not intimidate the whistleblower," Pelosi said. "I told the president you're in my wheelhouse when you come after the whistleblower."
On Monday, Trump fired back and accused Democrats of rigging the system.
"This is a great fraud being played out against the American people by the Fake News Media & their partner, the Do Nothing Democrats. The rules are rigged by Pelosi & Schiff, but we are winning, and we will win!" he tweeted.
Pelosi’s words come as the House Intelligence Committee is in the midst of public hearings with officials about Trump’s now-infamous July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky where he asked him to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, over their business dealings in the eastern European nation.
Democrats argue that there is evidence of “quid pro quo” during the phone call and that Trump made the release of military aid to Ukraine contingent on Kiev investigating Biden – one of the president’s main 2020 political challengers – and his son. Hunter Biden was on the board of Ukrainian natural gas firm, Burisma Holdings, which in 2015 was subject to an investigation by Ukrainian officials.
The whistleblower complaint, which concerned the purported “quid pro quo” Trump laid out in the phone call, sparked the impeachment inquiry and the president has since been highly critical of the unnamed person – questioning the whistleblower’s credibility and asking for the disclosure of the person’s name. He denies any quid pro quo.
Earlier this month, Trump also called on the media to find out and disseminate the name of the whistleblower – prompting the person’s lawyers to send a cease-and-desist letter to the White House.
Pelosi said it was of utmost importance to protect the whistleblower’s identity given Trump’s attacks.
"This is really important, especially when it comes to intelligence, that someone who would be courageous enough to point out truth to power and then through the filter of a Trump-appointed inspector general who found it of urgent concern and then took it to the next steps," she said.
Pelosi’s comments also come just days after Trump was accused by critics of intimidating former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch during her testimony on Friday when he sent out a disparaging tweet.
“Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad. She started off in Somalia, how did that go?” Trump tweeted.
Democrats have accused Trump of “witness intimidation” with his tweet, and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff read the tweet to Yovanovitch during her testimony and asked her to respond.
“The president in real-time is attacking you," Schiff said. "What effect do you think that has on other witnesses' willingness to come forward and expose wrongdoing?”
“It’s very intimidating,” Yovanovitch answered.
Asked by a reporter if Trump thought his tweets could be intimidating, he answered, “I don’t think so at all.”
"I have the right to speak. I have freedom of speech just like other people do," he said.
Fox News’ Brie Stimson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.