Wednesday, 24 April, 2019

Matt Whitaker testifies he hasn't talked about Mueller probe with Trump

House panel votes to authorize subpoena for Whitaker Acting AG Matthew Whitaker will appear before House panel as scheduled after uncertainty amid subpoena threat
Leonard Rios | 09 February, 2019, 05:56

The hearing before the House Judiciary Committee was the first, and likely only, chance for newly empowered Democrats in the majority to grill an attorney general they perceive as a Donald Trump loyalist, and whose appointment they suspect was aimed at suppressing investigations of the Republican president.

Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said that Nadler "has made the commitment that we requested, and agreed that, if Mr. Whitaker voluntarily appears at tomorrow's hearing, the committee will not issue a subpoena on or before February 8".

The House Judiciary Committee on Thursday voted to authorize a subpoena for Whitaker ahead of his Friday testimony.

"We have followed the special counsel's regulations to a T", Whitaker said.

"In your capacity as acting attorney general, have you ever been asked to approve any action or request to be taken by the special counsel?"

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

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep.

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Democrats repeatedly accused Whitaker of running out the clock by giving them evasive or rambling answers in the hearing. Whitaker responded. "Congresswoman, as I've mentioned several times, I am not talking about the conversations that I've had with the president or the rest of his senior staff".

"Mr. Chairman, I see that your five minutes is up, so..."

"Similarly, Nadler prepared to subpoena Whitaker in case Whitaker refused to answer any of the questions", Mariotti continued. "Political theater is not the goal of an oversight hearing, and I will not allow that to be the case", he added. Nadler reminded Whitaker that the committee had submitted questions relating to the special counsel investigation and was waiting on answers.

"While DOJ claims that Whitaker made no promises to Trump about undermining the Mueller investigation, there were published reports that Trump asked Whitaker to control the prosecutors in the Southern District of NY", he explained. Why, then, is Whitaker pulling back from his voluntary testimony? After refusing to answer in a yes or no fashion and questioned whether she had the authority to continue asking questions because her time had expired, Jackson Lee rebuked the acting attorney general.

"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. When Whitaker tried to respond, the New York Democrat interrupted: "Mr Whitaker, that was a statement, not a question".

Whitaker said he had not talked to President Trump about the investigation, but said he intends to keep his conversations with the president private. But it does mean that a congressional witness's claim of executive privilege is hardly "game over" when it comes to having to answer touchy questions. "This is a responsibility we take very seriously", Nadler said.

According to CNN, former Trump associate Roger Stone was "one of the last key campaign associates" to be investigated. He also has longstanding ties to Sam Clovis, the Trump campaign's national co-chairman in the 2016 election who said Mueller had questioned him; in 2014, he chaired Clovis' campaign for Iowa State Treasurer.

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