Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker testifies before the House Judiciary Committee

09 February, 2019, 05:56 | Author: Sue Mclaughlin
  • Lauren Victoria Burke  FR132934 AP

Democrats have said they want to talk to Whitaker because he is a close ally of Trump and has criticized special counsel Robert Mueller's Russian Federation investigation, which he oversees.

A day before the hearing, the committee voted to authorize Nadler to subpoena Whitaker after the acting attorney general decline to answer certain questions submitted in advance about communications with White House officials and Whitaker's refusal to recuse himself from supervising Mueller's investigation, contrary to the recommendation of the top Justice Department's ethics adviser.

"In light of that commitment, Acting Attorney General Whitaker looks forward to voluntarily appearing at tomorrow's hearing and discussing the great work of the Department of Justice", said spokeswoman Kerri Kupec.

Former Federal Prosecutor Renato Mariotti explained he might know the reason acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker pulled out of the Congressional hearing set for Friday.

In the letter Nadler sent Whitaker last week, he said he wants to ask about his decision not to recuse himself from the special counsel's investigation, whether he has ever been briefed on the special counsel's investigation, whether Mr. Trump contacted him about former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, and whether Mr. Trump ever talked about firing or reassigning personnel in the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of NY, among other things.

He told lawmakers that there has been no change since his arrival in the job in the "overall management" of special counsel's Robert Mueller investigation.

In his opening remarks, Whitaker said he was ready to answer questions -but not all of them. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., about the conditions under which he would testify.

Democrats repeatedly accused Whitaker of running out the clock by giving them evasive or rambling answers in the hearing.

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"Mr. Chairman, I see that your five minutes is up", Whitaker replied, drawing some laughter and gasps from the panel. "Political theater is not the objective of an oversight hearing, and I will not allow that to be the case", he added.

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.

The only other staffer present during the Mueller briefing was Gregg Scott, US attorney from the eastern district of California, Mr Whitaker said.

Asked about Whitaker testifying before Congress, President Donald Trump called Whitaker an "outstanding person" and said he would do very well should he testify.

Republican Doug Collins assailed the goal for the hearing and unsuccessfully called for it to be adjourned. "I say that with sadness, because the attorney general role is America's lawyer, we are his client, and we are represented by the congressmembers sitting in that room". The Senate is expected to vote as soon as next week on confirming William Barr, Trump's pick for attorney general.

"We require answers to these questions".

Collins called the hearing a "dog and pony show" and criticized Democrats for disclosing derogatory information about Whitaker's business dealings hours before the hearing.

The dispute over Whitaker comes as Democrats leading other House panels also stepped up investigations of Trump and those around him, despite the president's warning in his State of the Union address on Tuesday that the nation's "economic miracle" could be stopped by "ridiculous partisan investigations".

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