Wednesday, 18 September, 2019

Whitaker refuses to testify unless Dems drop subpoena threat

Whitaker says he won’t testify unless Democrats drop their subpoena threat Matt Whitaker Tries Bailing On Congressional Testimony After Democrats Threaten Subpoena
Patty Aguilar | 08 February, 2019, 11:28

"In light of that commitment, acting Attorney General Whitaker looks forward to voluntarily appearing at tomorrow's hearing and discussing the great work of the Department of Justice", said spokeswoman Kerri Kupec.

"The Committee now has deviated from historic practice and protocol and taken the unnecessary and premature step of authorizing a subpoena to the me, the Acting Attorney General, even though I had agreed to voluntarily appear", Whitaker said in a statement.

Democrats have a list of questions to fire at him - which they provided him last month - including whether he was in the loop before Mr. Trump ousted former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, why Mr. Whitaker didn't recuse himself from overseeing the special counsel Russian Federation probe, and what Mr. Whitaker's interactions have been with the president since taking office. "Political theater is not the goal of an oversight hearing, and I will not allow that to be the case", he added.

A subpoena would compel Whitaker to testify.

In a letter to House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler on Thursday, acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker said he would bail on his scheduled hearing on Friday unless Nadler assured him he would not file a subpoena to compel Whitaker to disclose his conversations with the president on hot-button topics or force Whitaker to invoke "executive privilege".

The questions mostly dealt with Whitaker's communications with President Trump and the White House about special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation and other Trump-linked DOJ probes.

Republicans on the committee also strongly opposed Nadler's resolution to approve a subpoena if necessary.

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The hearing will be the committee's first major oversight hearing looking at the Justice Department of this Congress. Whitaker told reporters last week that Mueller's probe was "close to being completed", the first official sign that the investigation may be nearing an end. Later, Nadler tweeted that Whitaker had agreed to show up.

Meanwhile, Attorney General nominee William Barr just advanced to his full Senate nomination. Whitaker called the Democratic-led move an act of "political theater".

"Chairman Nadler and Democrats overplayed their hand", ranking member Doug Collins of Georgia said.

"In a quest to score political points against the president, they authorized a pre-emptive subpoena, treating a voluntary witness as hostile", Collins said.

Republicans proposed an amendment, offered by Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona, to add Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein - a familiar target of the GOP given his past oversight of the Mueller probe - to Nadler's subpoena, which was rejected by Democrats. Nadler said that is "ridiculous" and administration officials must provide the committee with answers or a better excuse to withhold them.

In a letter to Nadler after the vote, Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd laid out a lengthy legal argument for asserting such executive privilege, saying administration officials from both parties have declined to answer questions about conversations they have had with the president.

"The subpoena will only be issued if he refuses to answer questions on a speculative basis of privilege", Nadler said. He asked Whitaker to consult with the White House ahead of the hearing and tell the committee whether he would invoke privilege.

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