Acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker testifies before House Judiciary Committee

Whitaker says he won't testify unless House panel abandons subpoena threat

Whitaker says he won't testify unless House panel abandons subpoena threat

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, appointed after Jeff Sessions resigned previous year, was grilled by Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee on Friday about whether his appointment was made to protect Trump from Robert Mueller's special counsel investigation.

"Before we adjourn, I want to note for the record, Mr. Whitaker, you owe us responses on a number of issues raised here today", said Nadler, who then rattled off several of the questions. Collins said Friday the Democrats' move was part of a "character assassination".

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

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". A full Senate is expected to confirm Barr as President Donald Trump's chief law enforcement officer next week.

"I will answer the committee's questions as best I can, but I will continue the long-standing executive branch practice of not disclosing information that may be subject to executive privilege such as the contents of conversations with the president", he stated.

"It's getting a little tiresome hearing you stall", the New York Democrat told Whitaker.

Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the committee's top Republican, criticized the hearing as "pure political theater" and a "dog and pony show". They said it was unnecessary because Whitaker was already appearing voluntarily.

Nor should it. To say that Whitaker's tenure as acting attorney general has been an embarrassment to the nation is an understatement.

Nadler, Whitaker wrote in his letter Thursday, has "deviated from historic practice and protocol and taken the unnecessary and premature step of authorizing a subpoena" before the attorney general opted to decline to answer their questions in a voluntary appearance.

Whitaker's hearing is probably going to be a contentious affair.

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"I think he's an outstanding person".

When asked if he believes Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation is a witch hunt, Whitaker wouldn't say, replying, "It would be inappropriate for me to talk about an ongoing investigation".

For Democrats, it was their first and likely only chance to grill an attorney general they perceive as a Trump loyalist and whose appointment they suspect was aimed at suppressing investigations of the Republican president. Here's one: Trump's acting attorney general involved in firm that scammed veterans out of life savings.

The Justice Department said Whitaker would not testify unless Democrats assured him that they would not issue a subpoena.

The committee will debate a resolution to approve a subpoena on Thursday, Nadler said.

Whitaker took over from Attorney General Jeff Sessions on November 7, the day after the midterm election, when Trump successfully sought the resignation of his top law enforcement official.

The House Committee approved the subpoena.

"I can assure this committee that before appointing me to this position, the president did not ask for and I did not provide any promises beforehand", Whitaker answered.

Mr Trump has denounced the investigations as "presidential harassment".

On Thursday, Mr Burr told CBS News: "If we write a report based upon the facts that we have, then we don't have anything that would suggest there was collusion by the Trump campaign and Russian Federation".

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