It has been a battle with Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker to get him to testify before the House Judiciary Committee, and the committee voted on Thursday to allow Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) the authority to subpoena Whitaker if the acting attorney general failed to show or refused during his testimony to answer certain questions about his conversations with Mr. Trump.
On Friday morning, Whitaker came before the House Judiciary Committee after some back and forth with Rep. Jerry Nadler. Whitaker had said on Thursday that he would not testify unless Democrats stopped their subpoena threat.
In his opening statement, Nadler did not mince words. According to Business Insider:
‘He specifically focused on Whitaker’s refusal to follow advice from career ethics officials at the Justice Department; his history of making public comments critical of the Russia investigation; his insistence that he remain in control of the Russia investigation; and his statement saying he would not appear before the panel unless Democrats pledged not to subpoena him.’
Nadler said that Whitaker’s conduct fell “well short of the mark” in many ways. He said:
‘It is my intent that there be no surprises today. We have laid all of the groundwork for this hearing out in the open. We have given you months to prepare. We have publicly documented every request we have made. We have provided our Republican colleagues with a meaningful opportunity to weigh in on the process. We have nothing to hide from you, or anyone else. We hope you have nothing to hide from us.’
Things then got contentious when Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, Nadler’s Republican counterpart, became defensive, saying:
‘We now have the reason for this hearing. It has nothing to dow with oversight of the DOJ.
‘This is nothing more than a character assassination. And we’re going to also decide to see if we can just do something and get at the president if we have the chance.’
Collins went on to say:
‘When we look forward into this hearing today … we’re going to have plenty of stunts, we’re going to have plenty of theatrics. Because that’s what this is becoming. It’s becoming a show.’
Collins then moved to adjourn the hearing, but was voted down by the committee.
Rep. Nadler did not mince words, and was clear in his questioning and his expectation for the hearing, saying that all the “groundwork for this hearing has been laid out in the open,” as he referred to the questions that had been previously provided to Whitaker to enable his ability to consult with the executive branch.
During the hearing, things got contentious between Chairman Nadler and Whitaker when Whitaker asked a series of questions attempting to find out what he knew about former Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recusal for the Mueller investigation.
‘How many times were you briefed about the special counsel’s work and when did the briefing take place?’
‘Mr. Chairman, I have said all that I am planning on saying about the number of times or the briefings that I received on the Special Counsel.’
After some back and forth, Nadler wanted to know if Whitaker had been briefed at least once before Sessions’ recusal from the investigation. To which Whitaker, asked:
‘what’s your basis for that question, sir?’
Nadler shot back with:
‘Well, yes or no…is it correct? It is our understanding that at least one briefing occured between your decision not to recuse yourself on December 19 and six days later on Christmas Day. Is that correct? Simple question…yes or no?’
Whitaker continues to be evasive, saying:
‘Mr. Chairman, what is the basis for your question, you’re saying..’
Nadler interrupts, saying:
‘I’m asking the question…I only have 5 minutes…’
Clearly Whitaker was very uncomfortable and Nadler wasn’t going to make it easy for him. Everyone wants answers and Nadler isn’t going to back away from finding out the truth.
Featured image is a screenshot from YouTube