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

Matthew Whitaker

Modal Trigger Matthew Whitaker AP

Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker arrives to testify before a House Judiciary Committee hearing on oversight of the Justice Department, at Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C, on February 8, 2019. Whitaker balked at the subpoena threat until Chairman Jerrold Nadler took a more conciliatory stance. And I took notes on what we learned (or re-learned) from what Whitaker said (and didn't).

"I know you're very interested in the special counsel investigation", Whitaker noted sarcastically.

He refused to answer detailed questions about how often he's been briefed, how much he's been involved in the Mueller probe and whether he and the president have discussed separate investigations by federal prosecutors in NY.

Republicans, who until recently led the committee, complained on Friday that the hearing was a "dog and pony" show meant to discredit the president.

"Bring your popcorn", he said.

Reminding Whitaker about his sometimes sharp criticism of Mueller's probe before he joined the Justice Department, the New York Democrat ticked off the list of former Trump aides and advisers who have pleaded guilty to criminal charges.

"At no time has the White House asked for nor have I provided any promises or commitments concerning the special counsel investigation or any other investigation", Whitaker said in his opening remarks.

Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker's testimony before the House Judiciary Committee Friday, widely rebuked by Democrats, has also earned the scorn of a former leading Federal Bureau of Investigation official.

When pressed on whether he trusted Mueller, he told lawmakers he has respect for the former FBI Director. "You'd stop a witch hunt, wouldn't you?" President Trump's pick for the position, William Barr, is expected to be confirmed next week.

Why is Mr Whitaker controversial? "The Department of Justice must be such a place".

"Have you ever been asked to approve any request or action to be taken by the special counsel?"

Mr Whitaker, who oversees the special counsel's inquiry into alleged Trump campaign ties with Russian Federation, was grilled by lawmakers in a hearing on Friday.

He was also pushed to explain his decision not to recuse himself from the Mueller investigation.

"I consulted with career ethics officials, I consulted my senior staff, I consulted with the office of legal counsel - it was my decision to make, I decided not to recuse", he explained. The question that this Committee must now ask is: "Why?"

After Whitaker objects, Raskin admonishes him that "this is my time".

Jordan and conservative Republicans have sought unsuccessfully to gain access to the mostly redacted three-page memo that lays out the parameters of the special counsel's investigation.

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

When it was Republican Rep. Doug Collins's (R-GA) turn to speak, he excoriated Democrats for waging nothing more than a "character assassination" against Whitaker with the goal of embarrassing President Trump.

On November 7, President Donald Trump announced the firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Mr. Whitaker, you don't run this committee!

McDowell well placed at the Pebble Beach Pro