Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker said Thursday he won't appear before Congress unless a House committee drops its threat of a subpoena for his testimony, calling the Democratic-led move an act of "political theater".
"We have followed the special counsel's regulations to a T", Whitaker said.
"There are a whole list of questions we don't know the answers to about foreign interference in the election, foreign influence over this administration and garden variety corruption, interference with justice, obstruction of justice and abuse of power in many ways", he said. After Nadler's opening statement - in which he also criticized Whitaker's decision not recuse himself from overseeing the Mueller investigation.
He also noted that Whitaker would probably be out of the job soon. Jackson Lee had asked Whitaker whether he ever appeared before an oversight hearing or was confirmed in the Senate, and Nadler demanded he "answer the question as asked".
Nadler made clear at the beginning of the hearing that he and Whitaker had come to an agreement for voluntary testimony that made subpoenaing him not necessary for the hearing. "Political theater is not the objective of an oversight hearing, and I will not allow that to be the case", he added.
Whitaker and Nadler have been at odds all week over Nadler's desire to get him to answer certain questions about his White House communications regarding Mueller and other DOJ probes linked to President Trump.
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"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.
In a separate letter sent to Nadler, Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd demanded a response on the subpoena question.
Though clearly exasperated - he drew gasps and chuckles when he told the committee chairman that his five-minute time limit for questions was up - Whitaker nonetheless sought to assuage Democratic concerns by insisting he had never discussed the Mueller probe with Trump or other White House officials, and that there'd been no change in its "overall management".
Former Republican governor Chris Christie has known U.S. President Donald Trump for 17 years, but says the advice he's offered hasn't always been heeded. "If he does not show up - though I do expect he will - but if he refuses to answer questions he ought to answer, then we will have the tools we need to ensure that we may adequately meet our own responsibilities".
Whitaker had said Thursday that he would not appear before the committee as scheduled unless committee Democrats gave him assurances he wouldn't be subpoenaed.