Sat, Feb 09, 2019 - Page 4 News List

Whitaker confirmed to appear before US panel

NO SUBPOENA NEEDED:Democrats are eager to ask the US acting attorney general about his interactions with Trump and the investigation into his presidential campaign

AP, WASHINGTON

The US Department of Justice on Thursday said that US Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker would testify before the US House Committee on the Judiciary yesterday as scheduled, ending a day’s worth of uncertainty over whether he would appear.

Whitaker’s appearance became questionable after the panel, led by Democratic Representative Jerrold Nadler, approved a tentative subpoena to ensure that Whitaker would appear and answer questions.

Whitaker responded by saying that he would not appear unless the committee dropped its subpoena threat, which he derided as an act of “political theater.”

After conversations with the committee, Nadler agreed that the committee would not issue a subpoena if Whitaker voluntarily appeared at the hearing, department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said.

“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,” Kupec said.

Nadler did not detail his discussions with the department, but tweeted on Thursday evening: “CONFIRMED: Acting Attorney General Whitaker will appear tomorrow morning at 9:30am.”

Whitaker’s testimony has been highly anticipated by Democrats eager to press him on his interactions with US President Donald Trump and his oversight of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into potential ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Whitaker oversees the Mueller probe.

Thursday’s committee vote did not issue a subpoena, but allowed Nadler to do so if Whitaker was uncooperative.

Nadler said he hoped not to have to use the subpoena, but “a series of troubling events over the past few months suggest that we should be prepared.”

Nadler said that as late as last week the committee had received reports that some at the department were counseling Whitaker not to appear.

Whitaker on Thursday said that was not the case, saying he had “devoted considerable resources and numerous hours to my preparation” and was looking forward to the hearing.

He criticized the committee for prematurely and unnecessarily authorizing a subpoena for him even though he had agreed to appear.

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

They said it was not necessary because Whitaker was already appearing voluntarily.

Democrats are calling Whitaker to testify even though his time leading the department is soon ending, with the US Senate expected this month to confirm Trump’s nominee for attorney general, William Barr.

The US Senate Committee on the Judiciary on Thursday voted along party lines to approve Barr’s nomination, sending the pick to the full US Senate.

One of Nadler’s main concerns has been that Whitaker would assert executive privilege to avoid answering questions at the hearing.

He said that previous Trump administration officials, including former US attorney general Jeff Sessions, declined to answer questions about conversations with the White House during testimony, saying the president might want to claim executive privilege on those conversations in the future.

That is “ridiculous” and administration officials must provide the committee with answers or a better excuse to withhold them, Nadler said.

“Without the threat of a subpoena, I believe it may be difficult to hold Mr Whitaker to this standard,” Nadler said.

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