Whitaker: I have 'not interfered' with Mueller investigation

39;Your Five Minutes Is Up:' Acting AG Whitaker Challenges Chairman Nadler Over Repetitive Mueller Questions

Moments into his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on Friday, acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker helped set the tone for the hearing by refusing to directly answer questions from Democrats and drew audible gasps when he told committee chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) that his "five minutes were up". "I'm here voluntarily. We have agreed to five-minute rounds".

Whitaker has been supervising special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation after rejecting the advice of career ethics officials to step aside out of an abundance of caution.

The hearing was hugely confrontational, as Democrat after Democrat grilled Whitaker over his ascension to acting attorney general, his conversations about the ongoing investigation and his past comments as a private citizen about Mueller and the probe.

Trump has repeatedly said there was no collusion between his campaign and Russian Federation and has called Mueller's investigation a witch hunt.

Trump's nominee for attorney general, William Barr, is expected to face a Senate confirmation vote next week. In the end, Nadler backed down and Whitaker agreed to appear. Answer the question, please, ' he pressed. When the congresswoman turned back to Whitaker, he hesitated and said, "I'm sorry, what was your- I don't know if your time's been restored or not", prompting some laughter from the room.

U.S. Rep. Val Demings said the acting attorney general was "making a mockery" of criminal justice by deflecting questions about whether he ever discussed any criminal investigation involving President Trump with the president himself.

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker might not get a cordial welcome on Friday from the House Judiciary Committee - but at least he may show up.

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Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) denounced the "theatrics" of the proceedings and said they were "nothing more than a character assassination".

"I have and will continue to manage this investigation in a manner that is consistent with the governing regulations", he said in his opening remarks. Have you communicated anything you learned in that briefing about the investigation to President Trump?

"If I worked for you, Mr. Whitaker, and you thought I was highly principled and that was your answer ... when you're asked about how do you view the people who work for you?"

"I'm not going to surrender the responsibilities of the attorney general to get the title", he told Sen. But Whitaker fired back, saying through a letter from the Justice Department that he would not testify at all if the committee issued a subpoena.

Facing off with Democrats in his first and likely only congressional testimony while leading the Justice Department, Whitaker was often defiant in responding to their questions, at one point cutting off Chairman Jerry Nadler to note the chairman's allotted time was up, drawing the scoffs of astonished members of Congress.

Demings also asked if Whitaker agreed with Trump's statement at a rally past year, "Look what's being exposed at the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation".

Mr Trump has denounced the investigations as "presidential harassment".

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