Whitaker hearing begins with theatrics, quickly turns contentious

Larry Hoffman
February 9, 2019

Whitaker's testimony has been highly anticipated by Democrats eager to press him on his interactions with President Donald Trump and his oversight of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into potential ties between Russian Federation and the Trump campaign. "I'm here voluntarily. We have agreed to five-minute rounds".

Just after the Senate panel voted on Barr, Whitaker fired off the letter letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler.

I watched the hearing.

Whitaker never directly answered Nadler about whether anyone had ever asked him to intervene with Mueller.

Mr Whitaker toggled between defending his role in the special counsel's investigation and echoing the president's talking points, conceding for instance that while foreign interference in USA elections was a problem, so too was voter fraud - a key issue for Republicans, but one that Democrats say is overstated.

In the letter Nadler sent Whitaker last week, he said he wants to ask about his decision not to recuse himself from the special counsel's investigation, whether he has ever been briefed on the special counsel's investigation, whether Mr. Trump contacted him about former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, and whether Mr. Trump ever talked about firing or reassigning personnel in the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of NY, among other things. Nadler, who'd taken steps to a subpoena as a last-resort measure, said there would be no need for one if he showed up "prepared to respond to questions from our members".

Whitaker then was allowed time to explain how his ascension to be acting attorney general came about. Hours later, Whitaker announced that he would not appear before the committee unless it withdrew the subpoena threat. "The question that this committee must now ask is: Why?"

THREAD: Why is Whitaker refusing to testify unless the House agrees not to subpoena him? If you've got skeletons in your closet, if you've had criminal fraud allegations about your past and your private sector involvement, probably not the best idea to raise your hand and say, 'I want in on a Trump administration job.' Because we've not seen the last of Whitaker. "We now have had the curtain drop down, and Mr. Whitaker, I guess your confirmation hearing's here".

Meanwhile, senior Justice Department officials told Fox News that Whitaker had been engaged in "robust" preparations for his appearance before the committee for weeks, including several mock hearings and briefings from all components within the Justice Department.

'The attorney general was in the middle of saying something.

Whitaker vented frustration early on as he repeatedly insisted that he would not discuss his conversations with Trump and tried to shift attention to the conventional work of the Justice Department.

Nadler told CNN Democrats will not be intimidated by Trump.

Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), the top Republican on the committee, denounced the hearing as nothing but "theatrics" and a "dog and pony show" - charging it was intended as "character assassination" of Whitaker.

Whitaker originally said that he would not testify if Democrats in the House continue to threaten him with a subpoena, but on Thursday evening he changed his stance and agreed to take part in the questioning.

However, Boyd added, Whitaker can not divulge details of his confidential discussions with Trump because certain communications are "vital to a president's ability to discharge the responsibilities of his office". The motion fell with a voice vote and Collins requested a roll call vote of all committee members. Whitaker was an outspoken critic of the investigation before arriving at the Justice Department in 2017.

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