Whitaker Sets Condition for House Testimony

Committee authorizes a subpoena if necessary
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 7, 2019 3:36 PM CST
Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker gave a House committee a deadline.   (AP File Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

(Newser) – After a House panel authorized a subpoena to summon the acting attorney general to appear Friday, Matthew Whitaker said he'll testify—as long as there's no subpoena. Whitaker said in a statement that the subpoena vote broke his agreement with the panel to appear voluntarily, the Washington Post reports. Democrats on the Judiciary Committee want to question Whitaker about his communications with President Trump, and about Whitaker's decision not to recuse himself from overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign. Whitaker's predecessor, Jeff Sessions, had recused himself, which Trump didn't appreciate. The president regularly criticized Sessions until he was pushed out last November.

Whitaker wants assurance in writing, CNN reports, that a subpoena won't be issued, and he wants it by 6pm Thursday. The subpoena is not just to compel Whitaker to show up. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, chairman of the committee, said he's concerned that Whitaker won't answer certain questions, per Reuters; he said he would only issue one if Whitaker fails to show or refuses to answer questions. Rep. Douglas Collins, the committee's top Republican, called the subpoena threat political theater, and the Post quotes Whitaker's statement as saying, "Political theater is not the purpose of an oversight hearing, and I will not allow that to be the case." The committee vote was along party lines, and with Democrats now in charge of the House, the Post points out, there could be much similar political drama ahead. (Trump is not happy with the House Intelligence Commmittee.)

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