According to this NPR article, the reason Chief Justice Roberts blocked a question by Senator Paul may have been because it identified the whistleblower.

It is believed that Paul's question would have identified the whistleblower whose complaint sparked the House's impeachment investigation of Trump.

What makes people think that the question identified the whistleblower? Can't the Chief Justice block any question he wants?

2 Answers 2


Well, Senator Paul has tweeted his question (name redacted in accordance with third party request): enter image description here

Can't the Chief Justice block any question he wants?

This is a different question and it's better addressed in a different answer here. To quote from that answer:

Procedure and Guidelines for Impeachment Trials in the United States Senate, pp. 3, 5.


And the Presiding Officer on the trial may rule on all questions of evidence including, but not limited to, questions of relevancy, materiality, and redundancy of evidence and incidental questions, which ruling shall stand as the judgment of the Senate, unless some Member of the Senate shall ask that a formal vote be taken thereon, in which case it shall be submitted to the Senate for decision without debate; or he may at his option, in the first instance, submit any such question to a vote of the Members of the Senate. Upon all such questions the vote shall be taken in accordance with the Standing Rules of the Senate.

So the presiding officer, in this case Chief Justice Roberts, may rule to block a question. A senator could move to challenge that and ask for a formal vote. I don't know, however, how that would work exactly as reasonably you'd have to know the question to vote on it.

  • While I agree with you that it doesn't make sense, you fail to address the main points of the question, that is, "What makes people think that the question identified the whistleblower?" and "Can't the Chief Justice block any question he wants?" I'm not saying your answer is bad, but rather that it'd be better if it addressed these questions directly.
    – user29681
    Jan 31, 2020 at 8:18
  • 4
    The whisleblower law does not provide for anonymity in the first place whistleblowerlaw.com/what-is-the-whistleblower-law. The entire point of the law relates to the fact that the whistle blower was going to have to go public and needed to be protected from management retaliation. The anonymity here was to protect the whole scheme from scrutiny.
    – user30014
    Jan 31, 2020 at 13:42
  • 3
    @JohnK there is no statutory protection guaranteeing anonymity to the whistleblower but there are laws against witness tampering (which includes intimidation). In fact, one of Trump's lieutenants was convicted for witness tampering in a previous case. In fact, President Trump has made comments that may border on intimidation of the whistleblower as well.
    – JJJ
    Jan 31, 2020 at 14:05
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    @JJforTransparencyandMonica The whole problem with "we don't name him for protection" is that the name is widely known already. Even I can name him. Censoring his name adds zero protection.
    – Sjoerd
    Feb 2, 2020 at 20:18
  • 1
    @Sjoerd I agree, anyone who wants to know can now. Many on Meta (see this post) don't seem to agree and I don't have a problem accommodating their concern because having the name here doesn't add much. Their concern is not a legal one per se, but some argue it's against SE policy (hypocritical, I know, but their motivation is admirable).
    – JJJ
    Feb 2, 2020 at 21:14

What makes people think that the question identified the whistleblower?

Because everyone in Congress and most people in Washington DC know who is the whistleblower. They just pretend not to know.

Everyone who wants to know the name of the whistleblower, can know within 5 minutes. The name has been mentioned on large sites many times. A simple search for "Trump whistleblower identity" will identify him in the short snippets on the search page. Senator Paul has retweeted a tweet with the name back in 2019 already, so searching for that is good enough as well.

That's why everyone knows which name should not be mentioned.


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