Acting AG Whitaker tells House panel he hasn't interfered with Mueller probe

Acting AG Whitaker tells House panel he hasn't interfered with Mueller probe

Democrats repeatedly accused Whitaker of running out the clock by giving them evasive or rambling answers in the hearing.

Rosenstein also has tried to reassure people outside the Justice Department that irrespective of who is actually supervising the special counsel's office - whether him or Whitaker or the next likely attorney general, William Barr - the Mueller investigation would be handled "appropriately". He was clearly contemptuous of Congress, didn't believe he should be participating in an oversight hearing.

But the antagonism between House Democrats and Whitaker was on full display throughout the hearing on Friday.

The setup for Whitaker's hearing was fairly typical: Committee members did the asking in five-minute increments.

Trump soured on Sessions after the attorney general recused himself from the Russian Federation investigation in early 2017, and the president frequently bashed the former senator on Twitter and in interviews.

Representative Doug Collins of Georgia, the panel's top Republican, said Democrats were staging a "dog-and-pony show" simply "to damage the president". He is the person "ultimately in charge of the investigation", yet insisted he has not interfered in any way with it.

Whitaker said then he might not attend, prompting Nadler to backtrack.

The chairman said in his opening statement that the acting attorney general's "reluctance to answer questions about these communications as a deeply troubling sign".

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"Congresswoman, I am an acting attorney general".

"In your final week, keep your hands off the Mueller investigation", House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) warned.

"I have noting to add to that", Whitaker said.

"Mr. Attorney General, we are not joking here and your humor is not acceptable", she said.

Whitaker found himself in yet another standoff later as Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) attempted to ask a question about Whitaker's previous charity work. The letter declared Whitaker wouldn't appear before the panel, unless members withdrew a subpoena, compelling his testimony. When Nadler gaveled the hearing into a five-minute recess, Whitaker said into an open mic: "Five minutes for lunch?"

Mr Whitaker wrote for CNN in August 2017 that the investigation was "dangerously close to crossing" a "red line".

"We're all trying to figure out: Who are you, where did you come from and how the heck did you become the head of the Department of Justice", said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries. He told Whitaker that "your failure to respond fully to our questions here today in no way limits the ability of this committee to get your answers in the long-run-even if you are a private citizen when we finally learn the truth".

(Nota bene: Whitaker was under oath.) My observations are in the chronological order that Whitaker said them.