Acting AG Matthew Whitaker tells lawmakers he hasn't interfered in Mueller investigation

Whitaker says he won't testify unless House panel abandons subpoena threat

Acting Atty. Gen. Matt Whitaker at the Justice Department in Washington on Jan. 28

His answers to Democrats' questions often focused on procedure and involved rhetorical wind-ups that ate up precious seconds.

The hearing was supposed to cover routine oversight of the Department of Justice, but several Democrats used the opportunity to ask Whitaker about his background and his private conversations with President Donald Trump.

Doug Collins, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, called the hearing a "dog and pony show" and criticised Democrats for disclosing derogatory information about Whitaker's business dealings hours before the hearing.

Justice Department ethics officials had recommended Whitaker recuse himself from overseeing the Russian Federation investigation, a step he chose not to take. He is the person "ultimately in charge of the investigation", yet insisted he has not interfered in any way with it.

"I'm proud of my passion, Mr. Whitaker", she tweeted.

He also said he will only be acting attorney general for another week as Trump nominee William Barr is expected to be confirmed by the Senate. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein oversaw the investigation until Whitaker was appointed after Sessions's resignation. Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee got into a testy exchange with the acting attorney general about whether the Mueller investigation was a "witch hunt" - one of the President's signature insults. This came after the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Jerry Nadler informed Whitaker that the committee would not subpoena him as long as he shows up and is prepared to respond to their inquiries.

"Congressman, I am not here to be a puppet to repeat terms and words that you say that I should say", Whitaker told Swalwell Friday.

Critics have said they anxious about a hand-picked advocate for the White House sitting at the pinnacle of the Justice Department as it continues an inquiry that could have major consequences for Trump or others in his inner circle.

After Whitaker objects, Raskin admonishes him that "this is my time". I ask the department to work with the committee to provide them.

Democrats on the Ways and Means committee have taken the first step to obtain Mr Trump's tax returns, which he refused to publicly release during the 2016 campaign.

The stalemate ended Thursday evening after the committee chairman, Nadler, said the committee would not issue a subpoena if Whitaker appeared voluntarily.

Whitaker took over from Attorney General Jeff Sessions on November 7, the day after the midterm election, when Trump successfully sought the resignation of his top law enforcement official. But when Jordan asked him whether specific names were in the document - which Jordan charged would go against Justice Department policy - Whitaker demurred.

The committee will debate a resolution to approve a subpoena on Thursday, Nadler said. Nadler said that as late as last week the committee had received reports that some at the department were counseling Whitaker not to appear.

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