Acting Attorney General 'has not' spoken to Trump about Russian Federation probe

Charlene Craig
February 9, 2019

Nadler and Democrats want to question Whitaker about how he got his job and the way he's overseen the investigation into Russia's attack on the 2016 presidential election being run by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker appeared before the House Judiciary Committee on Friday to testify about oversight of the Justice Department.

This testimony came after a series of machinations concerning a possible congressional subpoena of Whitaker, who had been provided written questions beforehand along with a request from Nadler that Whitaker "p$3 lease take any steps that may be necessary. for the president to determine whether he will invoke executive privilege".

Whitaker stunned onlookers when he told House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., that his time slot had expired as Nadler asked Whitaker if he'd been "asked to approve any requests or action" for the special counsel.

"I have not interfered in any way with the special counsel's investigation", Whitaker said, as he claimed that under his watch the special counsel regulations had been followed "to a T".

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A Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation into Russian intelligence has entered its second year, but Republican chairman Richard Burr said there is thus far nothing suggesting collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Whitaker's hearing is probably going to be a contentious affair. And I took notes on what we learned (or re-learned) from what Whitaker said (and didn't).

There was laughter and audible "Ohhhs" in the room as Nadler smiled and Whitaker attempted to justify his non-answer by saying, "I'm here voluntarily, we've agreed to five-minute rounds".

"When we ask them questions, they have to provide us with answers - or provide us with a valid and clearly articulated reason to withhold certain information", Nadler said.

Democrats have expressed concerns about Whitaker's previous partisan statements about the Mueller probe, his resumé and not being in the line of succession to succeed Jeff Sessions.

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Nadler then launched into his opening statement. Whitaker said he had no knowledge of leaks to media outlets and that "It was deeply concerning to me how CNN found out".

Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., tried to adjourn the hearing before it started, saying it was an attempt at character assassination of Trump. 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.

"Mr. Chairman, I can see that your five minutes is up", Whitaker said, eliciting both laughs and gasps.

The hearing was the first, and likely only, chance for newly empowered Democrats in the majority 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. "I have no reason to believe he is not honest".

Differences over a barrier were the crux of a dispute between Democrats and Trump that led to the recent partial government shutdown - and the government could shut down again unless negotiators can make progress on a deal to fund the Department of Homeland Security.

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

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