Acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker testifies before House Judiciary Committee
09 February, 2019, 05:55 | Author: Ted Wilson
A congressional hearing room burst into loud groans on Friday as Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker found an unprecedented way to avoid answering a tough question from a Democratic committee chairman: He told him that his time was up.
Whitaker, who had been appointed last November by President Trump after Attorney General Jeff Sessions resigned under pressure, threatened not testify before the committee if he was subpoenaed.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep.
Republicans derided the hearing as political theater especially since Whitaker may well be in his final week on the job.
"I control this time, Mr. Whitaker", said Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., when Whitaker accused him of challenging his character.
Mr Whitaker, who oversees the special counsel's inquiry into alleged Trump campaign ties with Russian Federation, was grilled by lawmakers in a hearing on Friday.
Nadler made clear early Thursday that he did not want to have to subpoena Whitaker, but said a "series of troubling events" suggested it would be better for him to be prepared with that authority, just in case he decided not to show up for the hearing.
Whitaker and Nadler then clashed when the witness informed the chair his five-minute time limit to ask questions had run out.
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"When we ask them questions, they have to provide us with answers - or provide us with a valid and clearly articulated reason to withhold certain information", Nadler said.
Whitaker's behavior before the committee, said former Assistant FBI Director Frank Figliuzzi on MSNBC's "Deadline: White House", was one of the most appalling things he'd ever seen. Whitaker said he had no knowledge of leaks to media outlets and that "It was deeply concerning to me how CNN found out".
"A subpoena should only follow a breakdown of the accommodation process and as a last resort against persons seeking to frustrate legitimate oversight on this committee", said Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the committee's top Republican. "To the extent that you believe you are unable to fully respond to any specific question, we are prepared to handle your concerns on a case-by-case basis, both during and after tomorrow's hearing", Nadler wrote.
The stalemate ended Thursday evening after the committee chairman said the committee wouldn't issue a subpoena if Whitaker came voluntarily. The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday voted, along party lines, to advance Barr's nomination to the full Senate for confirmation.
Collins said that the Justice Department's response to the subpoena vote showed that Democrats "overplayed their hand". "The rules are that you are here, so I need to ask the question, and I need to have my time restored so that you can behave appropriately".
Democrats on the Ways and Means committee have taken the first step to obtain Mr Trump's tax returns, which he refused to publicly release during the 2016 campaign.
"Any questions unanswered today [that] require consultation with the White House, will be asked again ... and I expect either a clean answer or a proper assertion of privilege claimed by the president", Nadler said.
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