Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker Grilled by the House Judiciary Committee


In a combative congressional hearing on Friday, Whitaker, a Trump loyalist and appointee, told the Democratic-led House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, he has not talked to Trump or senior White House officials about the investigation.

Congresswoman Val Demings (D- FL) directly told Acting AG Matthew Whitaker during today's hearing, "I believe that you have worked to make our criminal justice system--to make a mockery out of it". Nadler and three other House committee chairmen released documents Friday that they said show Whitaker failed to return thousands of dollars that were supposed to be distributed to victims of a company's alleged fraud. House Democrats also berated Whitaker on the administration's immigration policy and about family separations at the border.

Justice Department ethics officials had recommended Whitaker recuse himself from overseeing the Russian Federation investigation, a step he chose not to take.

Republicans on Friday backed Whitaker, with ranking member Doug Collins, R-Ga., calling on the committee to adjourn - although a vote to do so did not pass. Collins called the daylong hearing a "dog and pony show".

Democrats pushed Whitaker on whether he was still critical of the special counsel investigation he is now in charge of.

"[Democrats] are going so far to the left, so radical, so rude that I think the American public is gonna wake up", she said.

"Congresswoman, I am an acting attorney general".

The nomination of Barr, who served as attorney general between 1991 and 1993 under President George H.W. Bush, is expected to be confirmed in a vote that could come as early as next week. Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee got into a testy exchange with the acting attorney general about whether the Mueller investigation was a "witch hunt" - one of the President's signature insults. He gave an ultimatum, saying he would only testify if the House dropped its threat of a subpoena.

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"I don't know if your time has been restored or not", Whitaker said to laughter in the room. Collins said. "The key difference today is simply that this witness is part of the Trump Administration - and now we're setting a risky precedent".

Whitaker also denied a news report that Trump had lashed out at him after the guilty plea of Michael Cohen, the president's former lawyer.

The remark drew gasps in the hearing room, where committee chairmen hold vast power, including over who asks the questions and for how long.

Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker stunned the House Judiciary Committee with his answer to committee chairman Rep. We have agreed to five-minute rounds, ' said Whitaker, the only one in the room who appeared unaware that committee chairmen can bend the rules almost at will.

After Jackson Lee repeated her question to Whitaker, she quickly looked around and asked to confirm her time had been restored, interrupting the attorney general as he began to answer. "It is very unusual for a witness to mention the time limit, and even more so for a witness to accuse the chairman of a panel of having gone over his time limit".

In his opening statements, committee chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said he wanted to ask whether Whitaker helped orchestrate former Attorney General Jeff Session's departure.

Democrats said they would inquire about Whitaker's past business dealings, too.