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

Whitaker says he won't testify unless House panel abandons subpoena threat

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, appointed after Jeff Sessions resigned a year ago, was grilled by Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee on Friday about whether his appointment was made to protect Trump from Robert Mueller's special counsel investigation.

"Mr. Chairman, I see that your five minutes is up", Whitaker said. Collins said. "The key difference today is simply that this witness is part of the Trump Administration - and now we're setting a risky precedent".

U.S. Rep. Val Demings said the acting attorney general was "making a mockery" of criminal justice by deflecting questions about whether he ever discussed any criminal investigation involving President Trump with the president himself. In response to Nadler's questions, Whitaker insisted that he has "not interfered in any way" with the ongoing probe. Doug Jones - commit publicly that he too would vote for Barr.

The New York Democrat later confirmed that Whitaker will appear on Friday morning.

But Republicans objected to the move, arguing that Whitaker had not yet personally given the panel a legitimate reason to be concerned - and that approving a preemptive subpoena would set a bad precedent for the panel.

Justice Department ethics officials had recommended Whitaker recuse himself from overseeing the Russian Federation investigation, a step he chose not to take. "I gotta tell you, I say that with sadness, because the attorney general role is America's lawyer".

Whitaker's time as acting attorney general will likely be coming to an end soon.

Nadler, had threatened to do just that if committee members didn't get answers to questions they wanted; Democrats, who make up the panel's majority, voted to authorize a subpoena if necessary.

Speaking on MSNBC shortly after the hearing, former FBI Assistant Director for Counterintelligence Frank Figliuzzi said Whitaker's performance compared negatively to some of the most unsafe criminals he had interviewed in his career.




"I can assure you [Barr] has a very high opinion of Mr. Mueller and he is committed to letting Mr. Mueller finish his job", Republican South Carolina Sen.

On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to recommend the confirmation of President Trump's permanent successor to Sessions: William Barr, who previously served as George H.W. Bush's attorney general in the early 1990s. "That deadline has come and gone. therefore I expect the acting attorney general to answer all of these questions without equivocation".

The remark drew gasps in the hearing room, where committee chairmen hold huge power, including over who asks the questions and for how long.

After a long pause, Nadler continued, "It's a "yes or no" question".

"I intend to be fully transparent about this process", Nadler said.

The most memorable exchange was with the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Jerrold Nadler (D-NY).

After Mr Whitaker, the former chief of staff to Mr Sessions, was temporarily appointed to the position, it emerged he had written several op-eds that were sharply critical of Mr Mueller's probe.

House Judiciary Committee chairman Rep.

"We're all trying to figure out: Who are you, where did you come from and how the heck did you become the head of the Department of Justice", said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries.

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