Matt Whitaker to Eric Swalwell: 'I am not your puppet'

09 February, 2019, 08:54 | Author: Emmett Rice
  • Lauren Victoria Burke  FR132934 AP

The majority of Friday's questioning surrounded Whitaker's oversight of special counsel Robert Mueller's Russian Federation investigation.

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. "At no time has the White House asked for, nor have I provided, any promises or commitments concerning the special counsel's investigation or any other investigation". "We have followed the special counsel's regulations to a T". The committee, he said, still needed answers from Whitaker on several fronts, including his communication with the President after his briefings on Mueller's probe and the exact dates of those briefings.

"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. (The Senate is slated to vote on Barr next week). Though Nadler would not be subpoenaing him Friday, Whitaker's dancing around that, as well as DOJ policy that it doesn't comment on ongoing investigation, was a source of tension throughout the hearing, in question by both Democrats and Republicans.

In his prepared opening statement, Whitaker said he meant to protect executive privilege involving his "deliberations or conversations" with the President, citing "long-standing executive branch policy". Whitaker's terse response was that Nadler has run out of time to ask the question.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., asked Whitaker if he'd shared his feelings on Mueller's investigation before he joined the Justice Department.

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. Whitaker added that he will urge Mueller to "summarize his findings" in a simple report issued to Congress, which could eventually be made public. Collins repeatedly tried to cut Democrats off from asking questions unrelated to Whitaker's current role at the department.

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"We're not joking here and your humor is not acceptable", said Texas Rep. and panel member Sheila Jackson Lee.

Jackson asked if Whitaker would've notified the Federal Bureau of Investigation if a hostile foreign power contacted him offering dirt on his opponent during his own failed campaign for Senate.

Democrats were often frustrated with his refusal to answer his questions, particularly after he discussed in an exchange with Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA), the case against Roger Stone.

"In light of that commitment, Acting Attorney General Whitaker looks forward to voluntarily appearing at tomorrow's hearing and discussing the great work of the Department of Justice", Kupec said.

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, showed a heavily redacted memo and questioned whether it included the names of American citizens being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He believed they still lacked a clear "answer as to whether he interfered with the investigation or whether he communicated with any people from the White House about the investigation". Although Whitaker had agreed to testify in late November, the path to his appearance was not without controversy. He finally pledged to appear if the House dropped its threat of a subpoena.


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