I have ‘not interfered’ with Mueller investigation, Whitaker says

House panel votes to authorize subpoena for Whitaker

The Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee threatened to subpoena Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker at the end of a contentious Capitol Hill hearing Friday.

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.

Acting attorney general Matthew G. Whitaker is scheduled to appear Friday morning before the House Judiciary Committee - a high-stakes confrontation that was almost canceled a day earlier in a standoff with Democratic lawmakers.

Mr 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 USA elections was a problem, so too was voter fraud - a key issue for Republicans, but one that Democrats say is overstated. There has been no event, no decision that's required me to take any action, and I have not interfered in any way with the special counsel's investigation'.

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. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., the chairman of the committee, of the committee's rules.

As Whitaker noted several times during his almost six hour long hearing, he doesn't have much time left in his role.

"Mr. Chairman, I see that your five minutes is up", Whitaker said. His full prepared testimony is below.

Whitaker and Nadler then clashed when the witness informed the chair his five-minute time limit to ask questions had run out.

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Democrats suspect Whitaker's appointment as the top judicial official was aimed at suppressing investigations of Trump, who has repeatedly called the Mueller probe a "witch-hunt".

After Whitaker's statement, Collins said Nadler had overplayed his hand. Whitaker said he had no knowledge of leaks to media outlets and that "It was deeply concerning to me how CNN found out".

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

It also followed a Thursday threat from Whitaker to not appear amid reports that Democrats were considering issuing a subpoena to compel him to answer particular questions. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein oversaw the investigation until Whitaker was appointed after Sessions's resignation. "Have you communicated any information in that briefing to President Trump?"

"He will come back, because we will use a subpoena if we have to", he said. "But, to answer your questions, I have not talked to the president about the special counsel's investigation".

Nadler gave the question in advance to give Trump time to actually invoke the privilege.

Whitaker, in his opening remarks, said he hasn't given the White House any assurances about Mueller's probe, and the White House has not asked him to do so.

The dispute over Whitaker comes as Democrats leading other House panels also stepped up investigations of Trump and those around him, despite the president's warning in his State of the Union address on Tuesday that the nation's "economic miracle" could be stopped by "ridiculous partisan investigations".

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