Acting Attorney General Whitaker battles angry lawmakers at hearing

09 February, 2019, 05:56 | Author: Donnie King
  • Lauren Victoria Burke  FR132934 AP

There was some curious timing regarding a letter from Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker to the House Judiciary Committee.

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.

"He argued that questions about Mr Trump's business interests were outside the special counsel's scope, and said: "[Mr Mueller] is only authorised to investigate matters that involved any potential links to and co-ordination between two entities - the Trump campaign and the Russian government". The testimony ended with Nadler warning that the answers Whitaker gave were insufficient. There has been no event, no decision that's required me to take any action, and I have not interfered in any way with the special counsel's investigation'. Nadler said that as late as last week the committee had received reports that some at the department were counseling Whitaker not to appear.

Whitaker continued the tone of his testimony, repeating his challenge of the committee's right to question his actions as head of the Justice Department when her demanded to know if Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) was basing a question on "anonymous sources".

"This is a breach of the agreement", and a "striking departure from long-standing processes".

"I think he's an outstanding person". So, if I had to guess, I would say that he's hiding something.

Mariotti then explained that if Mueller or the Southern District of NY want to know what Trump has told Whitaker, those conversations aren't going to be privileged. "Stone's either indictments or arrest before it was made - that information was available to the public", Whitaker said. "The Chairman should focus on helping the American people, rather than wasting time playing pointless political games".

The vote doesn't issue a subpoena to Whitaker but allows committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler to do so if Whitaker is uncooperative. Over the past several weeks there have been a lot of questions circulating around whether or not Whitaker would voluntarily testify. Despite previously telling reporters that Mueller's investigation was "close to being completed," Whitaker said he could not answer questions about ongoing investigations.

"I'm thinking about maybe we just set up a popcorn machine in the back because that's what this is becoming", he said.

Whitaker and Nadler then clashed when the witness informed the chair his five-minute time limit to ask questions had run out.

Republicans on Friday backed Whitaker, with ranking member Doug Collins, R-Ga., calling on the committee to adjourn - although a vote to do so did not pass. "There has been no breakdown here". "This is a responsibility we take very seriously", Nadler said.

"In a quest to score political points against the President, they authorized a preemptive subpoena, treating a voluntary witness as hostile", Collins said.

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.



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