Trump slams ‘vicious’ Democrats for conduct at testy Whitaker hearing

AFP  Getty Images

AFP Getty Images

During the hearing on Friday, Nadler threatened to force Whitaker to go back in front of the committee for a deposition. Whitaker indicated he would not appear unless Nadler withdrew the subpoena.

Friday's hearing nearly didn't happen after Whitaker said Thursday he would not attend if the Democrat-led committee forced him to do so.

He was asked whether he thought the special counsel was honest.

Nadler then repeated the question.

When asked why he didn't recuse himself from the investigation, Whitaker said a senior Department of Justice official told him it was a "close call", but ultimately the decision was his to make. He also tweeted that an article referring to the probe as a lynch mob was "worth a read".

"I have not talked to the president of the United States about the special counsel investigation", Mr Whitaker told the House Judiciary Committee.

"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. "And your humor is not acceptable", Jackson Lee said.

"Do you agree with the president's characterization of the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation?" she asked.

Nadler called the hearing to provide oversight of the U.S. Department of Justice, which Whitaker has overseen since former Attorney General Jeff Sessions was sacked in November.

"It's becoming a show", said the Republican congressman Doug Collins, of Georgia, who accused his Democratic colleagues of "character assassination".

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted Thursday to support William P. Barr, Trump's pick for attorney general, and the Republican-led Senate is expected to confirm him in coming weeks.

Friday was likely the first and last time that Whitaker will testify as acting attorney general. Also expected to come up was Whitaker's comment last week that he believed the investigation into potential ties between Russian Federation and the Trump campaign was almost done.

After Mr Whitaker, the former chief of staff to Mr Sessions, was temporarily appointed to the position, it emerged he had written several op-eds that were sharply critical of Mr Mueller's probe.

The Russia investigation into Trump campaign ties and possible obstruction of justice has been highly politicised since Mr Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey in May 2017.

President Trump on Saturday blasted "vicious" Democrats for their conduct during a House Judiciary Committee hearing a day earlier that featured Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker - and saw fiery exchanges between him and House Dems.

On November 7, President Donald Trump announced the firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Whitaker, the committee heads said, has not repaid those funds. The committee on Thursday authorized a subpoena if Whitaker refused to answer questions.

"I want to be very specific about this, Mr. Chairman, because I think it's going to allay a lot of fears that have existed among this committee, among the legislative branch largely and maybe amongst some American people", Whitaker added.

Jayapal was speaking to Joy Reid on MSNBC about a contentious interaction she had with acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker over family separations at the border.

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