In a combative congressional hearing, Whitaker said he had not talked to Trump about the probe into whether Moscow tried to tip the 2016 presidential election, or "interfered in any way" in the investigation since taking his role in November.
"Mr. Chairman, I see that your five minutes is up", Whitaker said, in a bold challenge to the head of the committee. "I'm here voluntarily. We have agreed to five-minute rounds".
"We all should show real passion and a real commitment to fixing what was done to these families and these children", she added.
Nadler, a bulldog questioner under the Republican majority, piped up.
Photo from the U.S. Department of Justice. Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries later railed at Whitaker. Whitaker agreed to testify at the hearing where Democrats' questioning largely focused on his oversight of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff has also announced a sweeping investigation into Mr Trump's actions as president, and has hired former White House staff members to aid in the probe. "I have been appointed according to the Vacancies Reform Act, and I have never appeared in front of Congress for any hearing, even when I was United States attorney", Whitaker said.
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Whitaker also will say that he had run the Justice Department to the best of his ability, with "fidelity to the law and to the Constitution". He suggested that the hearing was a waste of time because Whitaker likely only has a few more days on the job.
"I'm not kidding when I say I have interviewed terrorists who are more cooperative and respectful than Matt Whitaker was today", Figliuzzi began, provoking laughter from MSNBC host Nicole Wallace. Whitaker was an outspoken critic of the investigation before arriving at the Justice Department in 2017. He declined to say, for instance, whether he had discussed other ongoing investigations with the President, like the one in the Southern District of NY, and whether he deemed Mueller's probe a "witch hunt", a term the President has used several times.
The House Judiciary Committee prepared the subpoena, at the same time the Senate Judiciary Committee was supposed to vote to send the nomination of William Barr to become Attorney General to the floor shortly after 10 am Thursday.
In a rare bipartisan overture, Nadler pledged last month to coordinate his subpoena efforts with the committee's top Republican, Doug Collins of Georgia.
"Bring your popcorn", he said. Collins said Friday the Democrats' move was part of a "character assassination". But Whitaker has not appeared to take any actions with regard to the Mueller investigation, and he's left the day-to-day supervision to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who was supervising the probe when Sessions was attorney general and recused himself.
But Whitaker then warned he would not show up unless lawmakers dropped the threat.