Acting AG Matthew Whitaker gives first testimony before Congress

Minnie Murray
February 9, 2019

Most notably, Whitaker said under oath he had never spoken with President Trump about Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, nor had he interfered in it; he said he chose not to recuse himself from overseeing that probe; and that he had never denied any funding to the investigation.

The threat for Whitaker not to testify comes after the House Judiciary Committee voted earlier Thursday to authorize a subpoena for Whitaker ahead of his Friday testimony - which House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler said he would use only if Whitaker did not appear or would not answer the committee's questions, including about conversations with the White House involving special counsel Robert Mueller's Russian Federation probe.

Nadler did not detail his discussions with the department but tweeted Thursday evening: "CONFIRMED: Acting Attorney General Whitaker will appear tomorrow morning at 9:30am".

"The Acting Attorney General will testify that at no time did the White House ask for, or did the Acting Attorney General provide, any promises or commitments concerning the Special Counsel's investigation", Boyd wrote.

So far, the hearing has not shed much light on the status of the Mueller investigation - and it may not.

Collins, of Georgia, called it a "dog and pony" show and criticized Democrats for disclosing derogatory information about Whitaker's business dealings hours before the hearing.

Whitaker told Nadler several times that "I do not intend today to talk about my private conversations with the president", arguing that they fell under executive privilege.

"I trust that the Members of this Committee will respect the confidentiality that is necessary to the proper functioning of the Presidency - just as we respect the confidentiality necessary to the Legislative Branch", Whitaker said.

There was laughter and audible "Ohhhs" in the room as Nadler smiled and Whitaker attempted to justify his non-answer by saying, "I'm here voluntarily, we've agreed to five-minute rounds".


"Nadler did so because during the past two years when the GOP controlled Congress, Trump Administration officials would routinely refuse to answer questions without invoking executive privilege", Mariotti said.

Rep. Eric Swalwell, California Democrat, pressed Mr. Whitaker on his views about Mr. Mueller.

"It is our understanding that at least one briefing occurred between your decision not to recuse yourself on December 19 and six days later, Christmas Day", Nadler said.

"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 congressman Hakeem Jeffries.

Late Thursday, there was considerable doubt about Whitaker's appearance.

It also followed a Thursday threat from Whitaker to not appear amid reports that Democrats were considering issuing a subpoena to compel him to answer particular questions.

Cohen blasted Whitaker for the DOJ's involvement in helping represent Trump in those matters, saying the president is "making personal monies" off the lease of a government building.

Nadler then said his time was expired and recognized Collins to begin his questioning. The Senate is slated to vote next week on William Barr, who President Trump nominated to permanently replace Whitaker's predecessor Jeff Sessions.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff has also announced a sweeping investigation into Mr Trump's actions as president, and has hired former White House staff members to aid in the probe.

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