Between Acting AG Whitaker and House Dems, Trump-Mueller hearing turns testy

Lauren Victoria Burke  FR132934 AP

Lauren Victoria Burke FR132934 AP

Whitaker, even while expressing exasperation at the questioning by Democrats, nonetheless sought to assuage their concerns by saying he had never discussed with Trump or other White House officials special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into potential coordination between Russian Federation and the Trump campaign.

Nadler indicated that he'd be requesting that Whitaker sit for a closed door deposition with the committee - which would release the transcript when practical - and asked that Whitaker commit to appearing for it.

Whitaker said he is ultimately in charge of the Mueller investigation, though he'll likely only be in the job for another week. He added that he has not denied any funds to the special counsel's investigation.

Democrats were often frustrated with his refusal to answer his questions, particularly after he discussed in an exchange with Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA), the case against Roger Stone.

"Bring your popcorn", he said.

Swalwell, who primarily questioned Whitaker with regard to the Mueller investigation, began by asking whether the acting AG felt as though Mueller were an honest man. Whitaker received the questions weeks ago so they would know ahead of time which were subject to executive privilege.

Political drama erupted on Thursday when Democrats threatened to serve Whitaker a subpoena if he failed to answer certain questions at the hearing. Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries later railed at Whitaker. He declined to say, for instance, whether he had discussed other ongoing investigations with the President, like the one in the Southern District of NY, and whether he deemed Mueller's probe a "witch hunt", a term the President has used several times.

"But you wouldn't oversee a witch hunt, would you?"

According to CNN, former Trump associate Roger Stone was "one of the last key campaign associates" to be investigated. "We thank Attorney General Jeff Sessions for his service, and wish him well!"

"In light of that commitment, Acting Attorney General Whitaker looks forward to voluntarily appearing at tomorrow's hearing and discussing the great work of the Department of Justice", Kupec said.

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He was also pushed to explain his decision not to recuse himself from the Mueller investigation.

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

Republicans repeatedly tried to divert the discussion from the topic of the special counsel, instead trying to focus on other functions of the Justice Department.

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

Jordan and conservative Republicans have sought unsuccessfully to gain access to the mostly redacted three-page memo that lays out the parameters of the special counsel's investigation.

Whitaker tried to interrupt, sparking a yelling match.

Whitaker and Nadler have been at odds all week over Nadler's desire to get him to answer certain questions about his White House communications regarding Mueller and other DOJ probes linked to President Trump.

In a letter to Nadler on Thursday afternoon, Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd wrote that Whitaker is prepared to testify that "at no time did the White House ask for, or did the acting attorney general provide, any promises or commitments concerning the special counsel's investigation".

Nadler will ask Whitaker to return at a later, undecided date to answer further questions, threatening to "use a subpoena if we have to".

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