Published: Fri, February 08, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

House panel votes to authorize subpoena for Whitaker

House panel votes to authorize subpoena for Whitaker

After threatening to pull out of his scheduled testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on Friday, acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker has backed off, and will appear at 9:30 a.m.

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

"If you appear before the committee tomorrow morning and you are prepared to respond to questions from our members, then I assure you that there will be no need for the committee to issue a subpoena on or before February 8", Nadler wrote in a letter to Whitaker.

Democrats are anxious that Whitaker, whose public comments before taking over the Justice Department suggested he was sympathetic to Trump and critical of the Mueller probe, may seek to evade questions he is asked during the proceedings.

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

Nadler said in his statement that the committee granted him with subpoena power to show that with Democrats in power, Congress would no longer allow "government witnesses to dodge uncomfortable questions".

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.

In a letter to House Judiciary Chairman Rep.

Whitaker's position was relayed in a letter sent Thursday to the committee, according to a senior Justice Department official.

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Before he goes, Democrats who perceive Whitaker as a Trump loyalist are likely to ask him whether he's made any commitments to the president about special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation and whether he has shared with Trump any inside information.

"Number one, so you and I would be talking about it and others would be talking about it - the acting AG being under subpoena", he explained.

Whitaker had been set to testify Friday before the House Judiciary Committee, where he was expected to face pointed questions about his oversight of the special counsel's investigations into Russian election interference.

Asked about Whitaker testifying before Congress, President Donald Trump called Whitaker an "outstanding person" and said he would do very well should he testify. He asked Whitaker to consult with the White House ahead of the hearing and tell the committee whether he would invoke privilege.

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

Republicans said the vote was unnecessary because Whitaker has agreed to appear voluntarily.

Democratic investigators can challenge executive privilege and compel disclosure by taking subpoenas and document requests to the courts. "In a quest to score political points against the president, they authorized a pre-emptive subpoena, treating a voluntary witness as hostile".

Republicans proposed an amendment, offered by Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona, to add Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein - a familiar target of the GOP given his past oversight of the Mueller probe - to Nadler's subpoena, which was rejected by Democrats.

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