U.S. Sen. Rand Paul renewed his call on Thursday to identify the whistleblower who prompted House members to begin impeachment inquiries into President Donald Trump.
Paul made the statement during a conference call with reporters to discuss his "Penny Plan" infrastructure bill, which he has filed in the Senate and he said would create an annual pool of $12 billion to pay for road improvements, bridges and other essential work.
During a Monday rally with Trump in Lexington, Paul called on the media to identify the whistleblower. A federal whistleblower law protects the identity of people who report alleged wrongdoing by government officials.
"I have been in favor of whistleblower protections," Paul said during Thursday's call. But, in the case of the impeachment inquiry, Paul argued the whistleblower's identity should be made public because the inquiry is akin to a criminal trial. As such, Trump should be offered the protection of the Constitution's Sixth Amendment.
"I don't think the president should be given less rights than the average citizen," Paul said. The Sixth Amendment gives a criminal defendant the right to confront his or her accuser. Paul said those protections should be offered because of the possibility the inquiry could lead to a criminal charge against Trump after he is out of office.
Paul said the whistleblower was on the "Ukraine Policy Desk," and might have information about Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. Testimony in the
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impeachment inquiry has said Trump and administration officials pressured the Ukrainian government to investigate Hunter Biden, who was a member of the board of directors for a Ukrainian energy company. Officials who have testified before the House committee have said military aid to Ukraine was withheld while officials tried to force Ukrainian officials to open an investigation on the Bidens.
"I think he's a material witness to Joe Biden and Hunter Biden's corruption," Paul said.
In May, Ukraine's prosecutor general said, "Hunter Biden did not violate any Ukrainian laws -- at least as of now, we do not see any wrongdoing," according to FactCheck.org, which is run by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.
Paul said, "what kind of fair trial would it be" if Trump could not confront the whistleblower. Paul said the whistleblower learned of the phone call between Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky "second-hand," and people who shared information with the whistleblower might have violated the law.
"The whistleblower shouldn't be punished, but the other people should be punished," Paul said.
Although Paul answered several questions about the whistleblower, the purpose of Thursday's conference call was to discuss his "Penny Plan" infrastructure bill.
Paul said his plan would shave 1 percent off all federal spending, except for Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, creating an annual pool in fiscal years 2020 and 2021 of more than $12 billion each year. That pool could be used for roads and other infrastructure projects.
"If you're a Republican or Democrat, people are interested in roads," Paul said. "People have said at numerous times, 'We need a $1 trillion infrastructure bill' ... but no one seems to come with a plan to pay for it."
A fact sheet put out by Paul's office said the funds would be directed toward highways, railroads, airports, waterways, military construction, drinking water projects and rural utility services. Paul said the 1 percent funding cuts across government could be achieved by eliminating inefficiencies.
"I don't think the agencies would know it's gone," Paul said adding, "when I look at these agency budgets, I find outrageous stuff every time" that could be eliminated.
The federal government spends in the neighborhood of $100 billion on infrastructure in a year, so his bill would add 10 percent to that spending, Paul said.
"Ten percent is nothing to sneeze at," Paul said. ".... That would be 12 bridges." Paul said he would look for bipartisan support for the bill.
"We are going to try to get some Democrats on board," he said, and because the funding would come from other government spending, his bill would not need a new funding source.
"I'm not adding new money" to create the fund, Paul said. "I'm just moving money around."
James Mayse, 270-691-7303, email@example.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse