Published: Sat, February 09, 2019
Global Media | By Jackie Banks

Matt Whitaker Avoids Subpoena Fight Then Dodges Key Questions From Dems

Matt Whitaker Avoids Subpoena Fight Then Dodges Key Questions From Dems

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker said today he has "not interfered in any way" in the special counsel's Russian Federation investigation as he faced a contentious and partisan congressional hearing in his waning days on the job.

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

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.

Jerry Nadler asks Matthew Whitaker if he has ever been asked to approve any request or action to be taken by the Special Counsel.

At the hearing, Whitaker said that he had not interfered in the Mueller investigation.

Several Republicans on the committee pushed for former Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican, to subpoena Rosenstein in the last Congress, though he ultimately did not appear. Whitaker couldn't walk into the hearing and say he was surprised by the questions and couldn't answer because the president needs time.

"I am not your puppet, to repeat what you are saying", Mr. Whitaker responded.

Nadler also warned Whitaker that if he can't fully answer a specific question, "we are prepared to handle your concerns on a case-by-case basis, both during and after [the] hearing".

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Whitaker, however, did not answer that request, among other questions he avoided.

Whitaker and Nadler have been at odds all week over Nadler's desire to get him to answer certain questions about his White House communications regarding Mueller and other DOJ probes linked to President Trump. Whitaker balked at the subpoena threat until Nadler took a more conciliatory stance. Whitaker said he had no knowledge of leaks to media outlets and that "It was deeply concerning to me how CNN found out".

In his opening remarks before Whittaker's testimony, ranking member Doug Collins, R-Ga., called the hearing "a "dog and pony show", mockingly suggesting "we just set up a popcorn machine in the back".

After Jackson Lee repeated her question to Whitaker, she quickly looked around and asked to confirm her time had been restored, interrupting the attorney general as he began to answer. When Whitaker tried to respond, the New York Democrat interrupted: "Mr Whitaker, that was a statement, not a question".

Cohen asked Whitaker whether he has seen any documentation alleging violations of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution when it comes to President Trump's connection to the organization leasing the building.

"Consistent with longstanding practice, I remain willing to appear to testify tomorrow, provided that the Chairman assures me that the Committee will not issue a subpoena today or tomorrow and that the Committee will engage in good faith negotiations before taking such a step down the road", Whitaker wrote to Nadler. "Have you communicated any information in that briefing to President Trump?"

Collins said that the Justice Department's response to the subpoena vote showed that Democrats "overplayed their hand". He's also called it "presidential harassment".

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