Sen. Rand Paul read aloud the question that was twice rejected by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts during the Senate impeachment trial because it named alleged Ukraine whistleblower Eric Ciaramella.
During a speech on the floor of the Senate on Tuesday, the Kentucky Republican confirmed he had no independent confirmation of the identity of the whistleblower, whose complaint spurred impeachment proceedings against President Trump, and was asked how he was prevented by Roberts, who was presiding over the Senate trial, from asking his question last week.
"I asked this question, and this is my question. My exact question. We'll put it up here," he said, and he began reading, "Are you aware that the House Intelligence Committee staffer, Sean Misko, had a close relationship with Eric Ciaramella while at the National Security Council together? Are you aware, and how would you respond to the reports that Ciaramella and Misko may have worked together to plot impeaching the president before there were formal House impeachment proceedings?"
As a member of the Senate, Paul is allowed to say the whistleblower's name under the speech and debate clause, even though Roberts declined to do so.
"How am I prevented from asking a question when nobody seems to admit they even know who this person is? My point is by having such protection, such overzealous protection, we don't get to the root of the matter of how this started," Paul said. "When the intelligence community, with all of the power to listen to every phone conversation you have, has political bias and can game the system to go after you, that's a real worry."
The whistleblower, known to be a career CIA analyst, filed an Aug. 12 complaint with the Intelligence Community inspector general about the July 25 phone conversation between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, raising concerns about the U.S. leader pressuring Kyiv to open investigations into his political rivals.
Some Republican lawmakers and conservative pundits have alleged the person is Ciaramella, a former aide on the National Security Council with a specialization in Ukraine. The Washington Examiner reported the alleged whistleblower's professional relationship with Misko at the NSC before Misko went to work for House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff — a connection that has raised red flags among Trump's allies.
Paul said he does not support retributions against the whistleblower, but noted circumstances surrounding the apparent ties among the alleged whistleblower, Misko, Schiff and his staff, and twin brothers and National Security Council officials Lt. Col. Alexander Semyon Vindman and Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman should be known.
"I don't want him to go to jail. I don't want him to lose his job. But if six people who all worked together at the National Security Council knew each other and gamed the system knowing that they would get these protections, they gamed the system in order to try to bring down the president, we should know about that," he said.
Schiff, who is now the lead impeachment manager, has disputed accusations that he knows the identity of the whistleblower and excoriated his opponents for questioning his staff's involvement in the matter.
"I will not dignify those smears on my staff by giving them any credence whatsoever, nor will I share any information that I believe could or could not lead to the identification of the whistleblower," he said last week.