Democrats to acting AG Whitaker at Russian Federation hearing: 'We're not joking here'

Democrats to acting AG Whitaker at Russian Federation hearing: 'We're not joking here'

Democrats spent much of the hearing grilling Whitaker on why he did not recuse himself from overseeing the special counsel investigation when he was appointed acting attorney general, what conversations he had with the president about the investigation, and whether his opposition to the special counsel before he took the job played a role in his appointment.

"Mr. Chairman, as I said earlier today in my opening remarks, I do not intend today to talk about my private conversations with the President of the United States, but to answer your question - I have not talked to the president of the United States about the special counsel's investigation", Whitaker told the committee. "Mr. Chairman", he said, "I see that your 5 minutes is up". "We have agreed to five-minute rounds", said Whitaker, seemingly surprised by the room's response.

Jackson Lee had asked Whitaker whether he ever appeared before an oversight hearing or was confirmed in the Senate, and Nadler demanded he "answer the question as asked".

Collins had asked Whitaker about CNN's presence at Stone's house when he was arrested, churning up the conspiracy theory that the network was tipped off by investigators about his charges.

He instead pointed to committee protocol restricting the amount of time for each members' question, as he tried to blow off that and another question Nadler asked about his oversight of Mueller's probe.

"In your final week, keep your hands off the Mueller investigation", House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) warned.

Whitaker had been chief of staff to Sessions, who was forced from the Cabinet last November as Trump seethed over Sessions' decision to step aside from overseeing the Russian Federation investigation. "Maybe", Nadler said when asked by reporters if the committee would want to question McGahn.




He initially threatened not to appear at all unless the House promised not to subpoena him, evidently missing the point of what a subpoena is. Republicans on the committee, incensed by what Rep. Doug Collins, the ranking member, said was a "character assassination", first tried to adjourn the hearing, and then attempted to limit the scope of the questions.

"In my view, your conduct, Mr. Whitaker - including your decision to ignore important ethics advice when you became acting attorney general, no matter the consequences - your conduct, sir, falls well short of the mark", Nadler said.

Nadler called the hearing to provide oversight of the U.S. Department of Justice, which Whitaker has overseen since former Attorney General Jeff Sessions was sacked in November.

But there were several questions he did not answer.

There was tension on Capitol Hill Friday, when acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker testified before the house judiciary committee.

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. On Thursday, Democrats on the committee marked up a subpoena for possible use to compel his cooperation. But Whitaker has not appeared to take any actions with regard to the Mueller investigation, and he's left the day-to-day supervision to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who was supervising the probe when Sessions was attorney general and recused himself.

Whitaker also insisted the agency is complying with regulations. Whitaker promptly responded by saying he would not attend the hearing if the subpoena was used.

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