Published: Sun, February 10, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Whitaker Reveals California US Attorney Sat In On Mueller Probe Briefing

Whitaker Reveals California US Attorney Sat In On Mueller Probe Briefing

Whitaker toggled between defending his role in the special counsel's investigation and echoing the president's talking points, conceding for instance that while foreign interference in US elections was a problem, so too was voter fraud - a key issue for Republicans, but one that Democrats say is overstated.

Over the past several weeks there have been a lot of questions circulating around whether or not Whitaker would voluntarily testify. He is the person "ultimately in charge of the investigation", yet insisted he has not interfered in any way with it.

The hearing was hugely confrontational, as Democrat after Democrat grilled Whitaker over his ascension to acting attorney general, his conversations about the ongoing investigation and his past comments as a private citizen about Mueller and the probe.

Whitaker testified following a lengthy fight with Nadler over the prospect that he would be subpoenaed for not answering questions. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., the chairman of the committee, of the committee's rules.

"If you appear before the committee tomorrow morning and if 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.

Trump's nominee for attorney general, William Barr, is expected to face a Senate confirmation vote next week.

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

"It's becoming a show", said the Republican congressman Doug Collins, of Georgia, who accused his Democratic colleagues of "character assassination". Collins repeatedly tried to cut Democrats off from asking questions unrelated to Whitaker's current role at the department.

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Republican Doug Collins assailed the goal for the hearing and unsuccessfully called for it to be adjourned.

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.

Raising his voice, Raskin cut off Whitaker before he could continue. Republicans made clear they viewed the hearing as pointless political grandstanding especially since Whitaker may have less than a week left as the country's chief law enforcement officer.

"I'm proud of my passion, Mr. Whitaker", she tweeted. "I decided not to recuse".

"Lawmakers routinely go over their five minute time limits for questioning, and it is normally up to the chair to limit the proceedings", noted The Hill. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein oversaw the investigation until Whitaker was appointed after Sessions's resignation.

He said he was briefed beforehand about the indictment last month of Roger Stone, an informal adviser to Trump and a longtime political operative who helped launch the president's political career.

A Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation into Russian intelligence has entered its second year, but Republican chairman Richard Burr said there is thus far nothing suggesting collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

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