Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker Infuriates House Dems at Hearing

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, appointed after Jeff Sessions resigned a year ago, was grilled by Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee on Friday about whether his appointment was made to protect Trump from Robert Mueller's special counsel investigation.

"I have not talked to the president of the United States about the special counsel investigation", Mr Whitaker told the House Judiciary Committee.

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".

Republicans appear emboldened by Whitaker's backbone much like they are by President Trump's brazen politics, leading many to call for the acting AG to be made permanent.

"And we intend to bring him back in a deposition before the committee so we can get those answers".

Republicans on Friday backed Whitaker, with ranking member Doug Collins, R-Ga., calling on the committee to adjourn - although a vote to do so did not pass. Collins called the daylong hearing a "dog and pony show".

"Based upon today's action, it is apparent that the Committee's true intention is not to discuss the great work of the Department of Justice, but to create a public spectacle".

"Mr. Chairman, I see that your five minutes are up, " Whitaker said to the committee's Democratic leader, Rep. Jerrold Nadler of NY. "Do you know what kind of damage to children and families across this country, children who will never get to see their parents again - do you understand the magnitude of that?" The panel had given Whitaker plenty of opportunities to prepare for the questioning, Nadler argued, but it was "clear" he hadn't. When pressed on Friday if he considered the investigation a witch-hunt, he said it would be "inappropriate" to comment on an ongoing investigation.

Political drama erupted on Thursday when Democrats threatened to serve Whitaker a subpoena if he failed to answer certain questions at the hearing.

Whitaker, who had agreed to testify voluntarily, responded by saying he would not attend the hearing unless Nadler promised he would not issue such a subpoena. When Nadler gaveled the hearing into a five-minute recess, Whitaker said into an open mic: "Five minutes for lunch?"

The Russia investigation into Trump campaign ties and possible obstruction of justice has been highly politicised since Mr Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey in May 2017.

Since Democrats took control of the House last month, they have launched several congressional inquiries into Mr Trump's business dealings and his actions as president. Whitaker has come under scrutiny for his involvement with the invention promotion company, which was accused of misleading consumers.

The questions were all over the map, but primarily focused on Whitaker's role overseeing the special counsel probe into Russian interference being led by Robert Mueller.

  • Tracy Klein