The Justice Department told the House Judiciary Committee Thursday afternoon that acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker will not appear at Friday's closely-watched oversight hearing unless he receives a written assurance by 6 p.m. ET Thursday that he will not be served with the subpoena the committee pre-emptively authorized to use if he avoids questions. The subpoena would've most likely gravitated around Whitaker's negative opinion of Robert Mueller's investigation, so earlier this week, he threatened to resist Democratic efforts to compel his testimony on how he has supervised the probe after refusing to recuse himself on the advice of ethics officials.
"We were informed around a certain time last night, about 7:00 last night, that an agreement had been made, and it was a full cave by the committee chairman".
"This subpoena is nothing short of political theater, choreographed by the chairman and starring the acting attorney general as some mythological protector of secrets", said Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the panel. Whitaker's team argues this is a matter of precedent, and the chairman should not be allowed to hold a draft subpoena over Whitaker's head throughout a hearing.
Nadler, a New York Democrat, said that as late as last week the committee had received reports that some at the department were counseling Whitaker not to appear. "You asked the Acting Attorney General to come testify".
"Nadler did so because during the past two years when the GOP controlled Congress, Trump Administration officials would routinely refuse to answer questions without invoking executive privilege", Mariotti said.
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Trump has since nominated William Barr as attorney general. "That is exactly how the process should work".
"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. He 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 the president might want to claim executive privilege on those conversations in the future. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that rules on questions of executive privilege has historically tended to side with investigators over the president. His comments were a departure for the Justice Department, which rarely comments on the status of investigations.
Collins said that the Justice Department's response to the subpoena vote showed that Democrats "overplayed their hand". Whitaker, though, said he had been "fully briefed" on the probe.
Gowdy, who joined a private law firm in Columbia, South Carolina, after he retired from Congress, told Fox News' Martha MacCallum Wednesday evening that there are three reasons why Nadler would want to subpoena Whitaker.