The whistleblower who sparked an impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump is willing to answer written questions from Republicans, their lawyer has said.
Mark Zaid made the surprise offer as part of a bid to stem escalating efforts by the president and fellow Republicans to unmask his client, whoraised the alarmfollowing a phone call between MrTrumpand his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskiy in July.
Mr Trump is accused of abusing his power by asking a foreign leader to investigate Joe Biden, who is the current favorite to be the Democrat candidate in the 2020 presidential election.
Writing on Twitter, Mr Zaid said the whistleblower was willing to answer any written questions directly from Republican members of the House of Representatives – other than those querying his identity.
He tweeted: ” Being a whistleblower is not a partisan job nor is impeachment an objective. That is not our role. So we have offered to @DevinNunes. We will ensure timely answers. “
Devin Nunes is the top Republican on the House intelligence committee, and if he accepts the offer it would allow his colleagues to ask questions of the whistleblower without having to go through committee chairman Adam Schiff.
The unexpected move has been viewed as an olive branch to suppress demands by Mr Trump and others for the whistleblower to be unmasked, with the president tweeting that they “must come forward”.
His requests have fallen on deaf ears as the whistleblower is covered by US laws that protect the identity and careers of people who bring forward accusations of wrongdoing by government officials.
Mr Trump has repeatedly decried the impeachment inquiry as a “witch-hunt”, and his angry rhetoric has continued in earnest since Democrats won a key vote on the issue in the House of Representatives on Friday.
The House voted by 232 to 196 to establish how to hold public hearings in Congress as part of the investigation, which would focus even more eyes and ears on the impeachment process.
Mr Trump has since tweeted: “Reveal the Whistleblower and end the Impeachment Hoax!”
He also pushed the media to publish their identity, telling reporters at the White House: “They know who it is. You know who it is. You just don’t want to report it. And you know you’d be doing the public a service if you did.”
The president has asserted that the whistleblower’s account of his call with Mr Zelenskiy is incorrect, despite it being corroborated by people with first-hand knowledge of the events who have appeared on Capitol Hill.
) During the call, Mr Trump asked Mr Zelenskiy to investigate Mr Biden, the former vice president, and his son Hunter, who served on the board of Ukrainian gas company Burisma.
Mr Trump had been withholding $ (m) £ 304 m) in security aid to Ukraine, but Mr Zelenskiy has said heonly discovered afterwardsthat aid was being withheld.