Acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker snapped back on Friday at newly emboldened Democrats in Congress who are pushing for information on the special counsel's Russian Federation probe as they try to put President Donald Trump's administration under greater scrutiny.
The acting attorney general first challenged Nadler's line of questioning when the chairman asked whether he had been briefed on Mueller's investigation in December 2018, including just before announcing that he would not recuse himself from the probe.
"The time for this administration to postpone accountability is over", Nadler said.
New records produced by the committee show that World Patent Marketing's parent company paid Whitaker $9,375 from October 2014 through February 2016 for his services as a board member.
Whitaker infuriated Democrats by not giving "yes" or "no" answers, referring them to other departments such as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and at times challenging their questions.
"We have followed the special counsel regulations to a T", he said.
"I have not talked to the president of the United States about the special counsel's investigation", Whitaker said.
When it was Republican Rep. Doug Collins's (R-GA) turn to speak, he excoriated Democrats for waging nothing more than a "character assassination" against Whitaker with the goal of embarrassing President Trump.
In a letter posted on Twitter late Thursday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler told Whitaker that there will be no need for the panel to issue a subpoena if he appears "before the Committee tomorrow morning and if you are prepared to respond to questions from our Members".
"You decided that your private interest in overseeing this particular investigation - and perhaps others from which you should have been recused - was more important than the integrity of the department", Congressman Nadler told him as the hearing began. He said he had no reason to doubt Mueller's honesty or to believe that he was conflicted in his leadership of the investigation.
Reminding Whitaker about his sometimes sharp criticism of Mueller's probe before he joined the Justice Department, the New York Democrat ticked off the list of former Trump aides and advisers who have pleaded guilty to criminal charges. Since then, he has repeatedly shown that he is in way over his head at the Department, as when he asserted last week that the "decisions" of the Mueller investigation-which, he suggested, is "close to being completed"-"are going to be reviewed, you know, either through the various means we have".
"Mr. Attorney General, we're not joking here, and your humor is not acceptable", the congresswoman responded. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) attempted to bypass Whitaker's approach by requesting that he answer with a simple "Yes" or "No". He said Mueller would finish on his own schedule. The president himself kept an eye on the proceedings as well before leaving the White House for his annual physical.
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