WASHINGTON — Democrats are eager to press acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, during his first testimony to Congress, on his interactions with President Donald Trump and his oversight of the special counsel’s Russia investigation.
Whitaker’s highly anticipated testimony Friday had been in limbo after the Democratic-led House Judiciary Committee approved a tentative subpoena to ensure that he appeared and answered questions. Whitaker responded by saying that he would not come unless the committee dropped its subpoena threat, which he called an act of “political theater.”
The stalemate ended Thursday evening after the committee chairman, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said the committee would not issue a subpoena if Whitaker appeared voluntarily.
“In light of that commitment,” department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said in a statement, Whitaker looked forward to come to Capitol Hill and discussing “the great work” carried out by the department.
Whitaker is likely in his final days as the country’s chief law enforcement officer because the Senate plans to vote soon on confirming William Barr, Trump’s pick for attorney general.
Democrats who perceive Whitaker as a Trump loyalist were expected to ask him whether he has made any commitments to the president about Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and whether he has shared with Trump any inside information. Also expected to come up was Whitaker’s comment last week that he believed the investigation into potential ties between Russia and the Trump campaign was nearly done.
Democrats said they would inquire about Whitaker’s past business dealings, too. Nadler and three other House committee chairmen released documents Friday that they said show Whitaker failed to return thousands of dollars that were supposed to be distributed to victims of a company’s alleged fraud.
Whitaker has come under scrutiny for his involvement with the invention-promotion company, World Patent Marketing, which was accused of misleading consumers and has been under investigation by the FBI.
Whitaker had been chief of staff to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was forced from the Cabinet last November as Trump seethed over Sessions’ decision to step aside from overseeing the Russia investigation. Whitaker was an outspoken critic of the investigation before arriving at the Justice Department in 2017.
The PBS NewsHour will update this story as it develops.