House Judiciary Committee Democrats and acting Chief law officer Matthew Whitaker dealt with off Friday during a controversial six-hour hearing that focused primarily on whether he or President Trump had actually ever attempted to disrupt the unique counsel investigation.
The face-off began on Thursday, when Democrats on the committee voted to give committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) the authority to subpoena Whitaker to appear on Friday, regardless of Whitaker having actually currently agreed to do so.
The relocation threw Whitaker’s appearance the next early morning into unpredictability. The Justice Department stated Whitaker would not affirm unless Democrats ensured him that they would not provide a subpoena. The concern was worked out by Thursday night, and Whitaker appeared willingly as planned.
But the antagonism in between House Democrats and Whitaker was on complete display screen throughout the hearing on Friday.
Whitaker infuriated Democrats by not providing “yes” or “no” answers, referring them to other departments such as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and sometimes challenging their concerns.
At one point, after Nadler asked him a concern, Whitaker responded, “Mr. Chairman, I see that your 5 minutes is up,” drawing gasps and laughter from the space.
Whitaker likewise reminded the committee that chief law officer nominee William Barr would likely take over his task as lawyer general in a week, and scolded legislators for not asking him about the Justice Department’s work on violent crime, the opioid crisis, spiritual liberty, and free speech on college schools.
The committee’s top Republican, Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA), blasted the entire hearing– which he stated was supposed to be about oversight of the Justice Department, however was actually about “character assassination” and an effort to attack the president.
” This hearing is meaningless!” Collins exclaimed. “This hearing is not about what the good men and females of the Department of Justice are doing. … No, we wish to damage the president, we desire to talk about your personal conversations, we wish to talk about what you did, and why the president … might have put you there … that’s offensive!”
” If this is the method we’re going to go, then we’ll have plenty of stunts, a lot of theatrics, bring your popcorn, I’m believing perhaps set up a popcorn machine in the back, because that’s what this has actually become, it’s becoming a show.”
Democrats invested much of the hearing grilling Whitaker on why he did not recuse himself from overseeing the unique counsel investigation when he was appointed acting chief law officer, what discussions he had with the president about the investigation, and whether his opposition to the special counsel prior to he took the job played a role in his consultation.
Whitaker declined to discuss his private discussions with the president but did affirm that it was his choice to make whether he recused himself, that he has not informed the president or any senior White Home official on the special counsel examination, which he has actually not taken any actions to hinder the special counsel’s examination.
He also affirmed that as a private citizen he never shared his views with anybody at the White House, or any one of the president’s surrogates, such as his attorney Rudy Giuiliani.
Still, Home Democrats cautioned him not to disrupt the investigation in the several days he had actually left before the Senate verifies Barr as attorney general.
” In your last week, keep your hands off the Mueller investigation,” House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) warned.
Home Democrats also scolded Whitaker on the administration’s immigration policy and about household separations at the border.
” Your department was not tracking moms and dads who were separated from their children. Do you know what sort of damage to kids and families across this nation, children who will never ever get to see their moms and dads once again– do you understand the magnitude of that?” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) asked.
Some sought to dress Whitaker down further. Jeffries asked “how the heck” he ended up being acting attorney general.
@RepJeffries: “I’m confused, I actually am. We’re all attempting figure out who are you, where did you come from and how the heck did you become the head of the Department of Justice.”
Acting AG Whitaker: “Congressman …”
Jeffries: “Mr. Whitaker, that was a statement not a question.” pic.twitter.com/WbYCwpcwiN
— CSPAN (@cspan) February 8, 2019
Whitaker was the former lawyer of the southern district of Iowa and former chief of staff for then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Democrats revealed frustration with Whitaker’s statement, with Nadler concluding the hearing by informing Whitaker he is planning to call him back for an interview, by subpoena if needed.
Trump critics and leftists mocked Whitaker as “unqualified and oblivious.”
He may be so unqualified and oblivious that he fears public humiliation. He might have taken part in incorrect partnership with Trump in trying to decrease the examination or search out information useful to Trump or Trump cronies. https://t.co/byYU4uwiPj
— Jennifer Rubin (@JRubinBlogger) February 7, 2019
Nevertheless, conservatives stated the hearing a win for Whitaker:
Whitaker really held his ground under the hostile questioning of Democrats: Acting AG Whitaker “I have actually not spoken with the President of the United States about the unique counsel’s examination” https://t.co/tYaN7CQItY by means of @SaraCarterDC
— Sara A. Carter (@SaraCarterDC) February 8, 2019
Whitaker was unflappable. This brand-new socialist dem home bulk does not appear all set to demonstrate their cautious skills. They appear more like campus radicals.
— Matt Schlapp (@mschlapp) February 8, 2019
Haven’t seen it all, but have actually dropped in and out of Whitaker hearing today. Some really mad Democrats. Seem furious that Whitaker has not interfered with Mueller investigation.
— Byron York (@ByronYork) February 8, 2019