Whitaker hearing begins with theatrics, quickly turns contentious

Whitaker hearing begins with theatrics, quickly turns contentious

Whitaker hearing begins with theatrics, quickly turns contentious

Democrats have said they want to talk to Whitaker because he is a close ally of Trump and has criticized special counsel Robert Mueller's Russian Federation investigation, which he oversees.

That's according to Whitaker's prepared remarks released as he arrived on Capitol Hill to testify before the Democrat-led House Judiciary Committee on Friday. There has been no event, no decision that's required me to take any action, and I have not interfered in any way with the special counsel's investigation'.

So far, the hearing has not shed much light on the status of the Mueller investigation - and it may not. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., about the conditions under which he would testify.

During the hearing, Mr Whitaker told the committee: "While I have specifically been saying that I'm not going to comment about my conversations with the president or his senior staff I have also been very clear that the president has not instructed me to do anything". The Democrat's "jaw dropped when Acting AG Whitaker told the chairman his 'five minutes is up, '" she reported.

Nadler also warned Whitaker that if he can't fully answer a specific question, "we are prepared to handle your concerns on a case-by-case basis, both during and after [the] hearing". "We have agreed to five-minute rounds", he added.

"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.

"While DOJ claims that Whitaker made no promises to Trump about undermining the Mueller investigation, there were published reports that Trump asked Whitaker to control the prosecutors in the Southern District of NY", he explained.

Nadler then launched into his opening statement.

"Congressman, I'm not a puppet to repeat what you're saying", Whitaker said.

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Congressman Doug Collins, the top Republican on the committee, accused Democrats of staging political drama.

Whitaker was a skeptic of Mueller before he came to work for the department, but he said his criticisms were based on the views of an outsider and that he's since gotten a better understanding of the case as acting attorney general.

"Mr. Chairman, I see that your five minutes is up", Whitaker said, prompting gasps and laughter at the official's tenacity in the face of a committee chairman. When Whitaker tried to respond, the New York Democrat interrupted: "Mr Whitaker, that was a statement, not a question".

And things got complicated on Thursday, after the House Judiciary Committee authorized a subpoena for Whitaker, which Chair Jerrold Nadler said he would use only if Whitaker refused to answer the committee's questions.

Later, Collins questioned Whitaker about the indictment of Trump's long-time friend Roger Stone, including how CNN had a reporter in front of Stone's house when he was arrested. The Senate is expected to vote as soon as next week on confirming William Barr, Trump's pick for attorney general.

Former Republican governor Chris Christie has known U.S. President Donald Trump for 17 years, but says the advice he's offered hasn't always been heeded.

Collins said that the Justice Department's response to the subpoena vote showed that Democrats "overplayed their hand".

"I'm thinking about maybe we just set up a popcorn machine in the back because that's what this is becoming".

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

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