Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker Grilled by the House Judiciary Committee

Leroy Wright
February 10, 2019

The Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee threatened to subpoena Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker at the end of a contentious Capitol Hill hearing Friday.

"Mr. Chairman, I see that your five minutes are up, " Whitaker said to the committee's Democratic leader, Rep. Jerrold Nadler of NY. Though clearly exasperated - he drew gasps and chuckles when he told the committee chairman that his five-minute time limit for questions was up - Whitaker nonetheless sought to assuage Democratic concerns by insisting he had never discussed the Mueller probe with Trump or other White House officials, and that there'd been no change in its "overall management".

The blogger said the Democrats on the committee "are trying to redirect nearly every topic back to the Russian Federation investigation, and Whitaker has repeatedly said that he wouldn't answer questions about his private conversations with the president". Whitaker agreed to testify at the hearing where Democrats' questioning largely focused on his oversight of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

Democrats expressed dissatisfaction with Whitaker's testimony, with Nadler concluding the hearing by telling Whitaker he is planning to call him back for an interview, by subpoena if necessary.

"Mr. attorney general, we're not joking here".

The hearing took place as Trump's nomination of former Attorney General William Barr is making its way through the Senate.

Despite Whitaker's clear answer, Jackson Lee complained she wanted a yes or no answer, but Nadler indicated to her that the questions was answered, so she moved on. Answer the question, please, ' he pressed. Nadler asked Whitaker if he had discussed the ongoing investigation with Trump. When the congresswoman turned back to Whitaker, he hesitated and said, "I'm sorry, what was your- I don't know if your time's been restored or not", prompting some laughter from the room.

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In his opening statement, Whitaker said that while he would address the committee's questions, he would not reveal details of his communications with the Republican president.

Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) denounced the "theatrics" of the proceedings and said they were "nothing more than a character assassination".

"This is such a compelling issue, Joy, you and I have talked about it before", Jayapal said, "Republicans and Democrats agree that this was a heinous crime that has been committed against thousands of children". Nadler and three other House committee chairmen released documents that they said show Whitaker failed to return thousands of dollars that were supposed to be distributed to victims of a company's alleged fraud. Have you communicated anything you learned in that briefing about the investigation to President Trump?

In a combative congressional hearing, Whitaker said he had not talked to Trump about the probe into whether Moscow tried to tip the 2016 presidential election, or "interfered in any way" in the investigation since taking his role in November.

"I'm not going to surrender the responsibilities of the attorney general to get the title", he told Sen.

Democrats said they would inquire about Whitaker's past business dealings, too.

The Russia investigation into Trump campaign ties and possible obstruction of justice has been highly politicised since Mr Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey in May 2017.

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