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Val Demings calls acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker's answers 'pitiful'

Val Demings calls acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker's answers 'pitiful'

On Friday morning, acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker will testify publicly before a decidedly unfriendly House Judiciary Committee, where Democrats will ask him about the Mueller investigation and his decision not to recuse himself.

The House hearing almost derailed on Thursday when Democrats on the panel voted to authorize Nadler to issue a subpoena to compel Whitaker to appear and answer questions.

The dispute emerged amid reports that Democrat and committee chairman Jerrold Nadler was planning to subpoena Mr Whitaker to testify about his interactions with President Donald Trump. In the end, Nadler backed down and Whitaker agreed to appear.

When Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker testified before the House Judiciary Committee today, some of the most aggressive questioning came from Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland.

"It is our understanding that at least one briefing occurred between your decision not to recuse yourself on December 19 and six days later, Christmas Day", Nadler said.

"We now have had the curtain drop down, and Mr. Whitaker, I guess your confirmation hearing's here".

On Thursday the House panel voted to authorize a subpoena of Whitaker.

Nadler accused Whitaker of stalling but got pushback from the Republican Collins, who said Jackson Lee's demand of "yes or no" was inappropriate.

The testimony comes as Whitaker is likely winding down his tenure leading the Justice Department with the nearly certain confirmation of Attorney General nominee William Barr in the coming weeks. But Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham delayed the committee vote until just before 1 pm. "In the current environment, the American people have to know that there are places in government where the rule of law-not politics-holds sway, and where they will be treated fairly based exclusively on the facts and an even-handed application of the law", he said during his testimony last month.




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

Although Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is understood to have continued overseeing the investigation after President Trump elevated Whitaker, the acting attorney general said last month he's been "fully briefed" on Mueller's work and that he expected it to conclude soon.

"We all should show real passion and a real commitment to fixing what was done to these families and these children", she added.

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

The tone of the hearing had been teased on Thursday when Nadler threatened to subpoena Whitaker, while the DOJ threatened to boycott the hearing. Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries later railed at Whitaker.

At times, Whitaker appeared to be adopting deliberate stalling tactics to avoid answering Democrats' questions.

"When career officials at the department recommended that you take steps to mitigate your apparent conflicts of interest, . you ignored them", Nadler said.

Nadler had noted that previous Trump administration officials, including former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, declined to answer questions about conversations with the White House during testimony, saying that the president might want to claim executive privilege on those conversations in the future.

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