Sunday, 15 September, 2019

Acting US attorney general says he has not interfered with Russia probe

Acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker prepares to testify before the House Judiciary Committee Modal Trigger Acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker prepares to testify before the House Judiciary Committee. Getty Images
Patty Aguilar | 10 February, 2019, 20:04

He said he had not taken any action to interfere "in any way" with the probe.

On Friday's broadcast of CNN's "AC360", House Judiciary Committee member David Cicilline (D-RI) stated that "we intend" to bring Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker back before the committee in a deposition.

Republicans made clear they regarded Friday's hearing as a partisan exercise and a waste, given Whitaker's status as a probable short-timer.

Speaking on MSNBC shortly after the hearing, former FBI Assistant Director for Counterintelligence Frank Figliuzzi said Whitaker's performance compared negatively to some of the most risky criminals he had interviewed in his career.

Whitaker is the first top Trump administration official to testify before Congress since Democrats won control of the House in the November midterm elections. Whitaker's exchanges with House Democrats sometimes got heated.

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker will tell lawmakers that there has been no change in the "overall management" of the special counsel's Russian Federation investigation.

"If he were to continue to investigate the financial relationships without a broadened scope in his appointment, then this would raise serious concerns that the special counsel's investigation was a mere witch-hunt", he wrote.

Jamie Raskin, Democrat from Maryland, reacts as Whitaker tells the chair Nadler his time has expired for questioning. "I have not interfered in any way with the special counsel's investigation".

He also testified he had taken no actions related to the probe.

He said he was briefed beforehand about the indictment last month of Roger Stone, an informal adviser to Trump and a longtime political operative who helped launch the president's political career.

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Other Democrats scolded Whitaker, with Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, D-Texas, sternly telling him his humor was not appreciated. Trading Whitaker in for him will be one of the Trump presidency's rare blessings.

The tone of the hearing had been teased on Thursday when Nadler threatened to subpoena Whitaker, while the DOJ threatened to boycott the hearing.

But that didn't stop Nadler from trying one more time.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted on Thursday to recommend that the full Senate confirm Barr as attorney general, which could happen as soon as next week.

"I gotta tell you, I say that with sadness, because the attorney general role is America's lawyer".

Ethics officials at the justice department had called upon Mr Whitaker to recuse himself from the inquiry, as his predecessor Jeff Sessions had done, but he refused.

Trump critics and leftists mocked Whitaker as "unqualified and ignorant". The Maryland congressman noted that Whitaker's "fascinating career" included having "owned a daycare center, a concrete supply business, trailer sales, GOP activist, US attorney...."

The only other staffer present during the Mueller briefing was Gregg Scott, US attorney from the eastern district of California, Mr Whitaker said.

Whitaker's highly anticipated testimony Friday had been in limbo after the Democratic-led committee approved a tentative subpoena to ensure that he appeared and answered questions. The letter declared Whitaker wouldn't appear before the panel, unless members withdrew a subpoena, compelling his testimony.

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