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Whitaker: I Won't Testify Unless Dems Drop Subpoena Threat

08 February 2019

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker is giving House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler until 6 p.m.to drop a subpoena threat to force him to answer committee questions at a Friday hearing.

"Obviously, Whitaker wants to avoid answering certain questions, which will be hard for him to do if Nadler subpoenas him", he said.

"Rather than conducting appropriate oversight into the department's programs and activities, the committee evidently seeks to ask questions about confidential presidential communications that no attorney general could ever be expected to disclose under the circumstances", Boyd wrote.

It's not clear whether he will answer those questions, or whether he will face a subpoena if he does not do so.

Nadler originally invited Whitaker to appear before the committee for an open hearing scheduled for Friday. It remains to be seen whether Nadler's more conciliatory tone will be enough to get Whitaker into the witness seat voluntarily Friday or if the Justice Department will demand a more concrete assurance.

The threat for Whitaker not to testify comes after the House Judiciary Committee voted earlier Thursday to authorize a subpoena for Whitaker ahead of his Friday testimony - which House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler said he would use only if Whitaker did not appear or would not answer the committee's questions, including about conversations with the White House involving special counsel Robert Mueller's Russian Federation probe.

"Political theater is not the goal of an oversight hearing, and I will not allow that to be the case", Whitaker added.

In it, Whitaker told the panel that he is willing to testify tomorrow, as long as the committee doesn't issue the subpoena.

In the letter, the Justice Department criticized Nadler for authorizing the subpoena "even though the Committee had not yet asked him a single question" and suggested Democrats were seeking to "transform the hearing into a public spectacle".

The vote doesn't issue a subpoena to Whitaker but allows House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler to do so if Whitaker is uncooperative.

Whitaker failed to do so, leading Nadler to believe he will answer each question fully.

"While DOJ claims that Whitaker made no promises to Trump about undermining the Mueller investigation, there were published reports that Trump asked Whitaker to control the prosecutors in the Southern District of NY", he explained.

The questions Democrats want to ask Whitaker - outlined in a January 22 letter to which the AG did not respond until Thursday - fall under "a category of communications that Administrations of both parties have viewed as raising confidentiality interests that are vital to a President's ability to discharge the responsibilities of his office", Whitaker wrote in his letter.

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. Earlier Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to the send nomination of William Barr as next US attorney general to the full Senate for consideration. They said it was not necessary because Whitaker was already appearing voluntarily.

House Judiciary Republicans tried to block the Democrats' subpoena authorization, citing its unprecedented nature. Unfortunately, current and former Trump administration officials have a pattern of trying to evade questions.

Whitaker: I Won't Testify Unless Dems Drop Subpoena Threat