Matthew Whitaker Faced Grilling on Capitol Hill

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker

Acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker snapped back on Friday at newly emboldened Democrats in Congress who are pushing for information on the special counsel's Russian Federation probe as they try to put President Donald Trump's administration under greater scrutiny.

"Mr. Chairman, I see that your five minutes are up", Whitaker said to the committee's Democratic leader, Rep. Jerrold Nadler of NY.

"Mr. Chairman, I see that your five minutes is up, so..." "We have agreed to five-minute rounds".

Nadler, who was the only Democrat to question Whitaker before they recessed for votes, pushed the acting attorney general hard about his involvement with the Mueller investigation. But when Jordan asked him whether specific names were in the document - which Jordan charged would go against Justice Department policy - Whitaker demurred.

Whitaker continued the tone of his testimony, repeating his challenge of the committee's right to question his actions as head of the Justice Department when her demanded to know if Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) was basing a question on "anonymous sources". He did deny that that he has spoken to White House senior officials about the Mueller investigation. Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries later railed at Whitaker.

But Whitaker then warned he would not show up unless lawmakers dropped the threat.

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.

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker's testimony to the House Judiciary Committee on Friday was a disaster even before it took place.

"It was deeply concerning to me how CNN found out about that", Whitaker said, noting that no other media outlets appeared to be tipped off.

In his prepared opening statement, Whitaker said he meant to protect executive privilege involving his "deliberations or conversations" with the President, citing "long-standing executive branch policy". Whitaker promptly responded by saying he would not attend the hearing if the subpoena was used.

In a combative congressional hearing, Whitaker said he had not talked to Trump about the probe into whether Moscow tried to tip the 2016 presidential election, or "interfered in any way" in the investigation since taking his role in November.

Rep. Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican, asked Whitaker to explain what was in the "scoping memo" that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein wrote about the Mueller investigation in August 2017.

For Democrats, it was their first and likely only chance 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.

The House Judiciary Committee prepared the subpoena, at the same time the Senate Judiciary Committee was supposed to vote to send the nomination of William Barr to become Attorney General to the floor shortly after 10 am Thursday. On Thursday, Democrats on the committee marked up a subpoena for possible use to compel his cooperation. But he did not hold back in his opening statement, repudiated Whitaker's decision not to recuse himself from the Mueller probe, despite the recommendations of Justice Department officials. House Democrats also berated Whitaker on the administration's immigration policy and about family separations at the border.

For his part, Collins called the daylong hearing a "dog and pony show".

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