Matthew Whitaker’s Bizarre Congressional Testimony Contained a Trump Easter EggRolling Stone — Ryan Bort
Matthew Whitaker, whom President Trump named acting attorney general of the United States in November, testified before the House Judiciary Committee on Friday. It wasn’t easy to get him there. Sensing resistance he may not cooperate, committee chair Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) on Tuesday announced he was prepared to draft a subpoena to force Whitaker to testify so the committee could better understand how he came to sit atop the Justice Department, why he refused to recuse himself from overseeing the Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation despite ethics officials recommending he do so and what kind of communication he may have had with Trump or the White House regarding said probe. On Thursday, Whitaker issued a strange statement saying he would testify only if the committee agreed not to subpoena him. Nadler agreed.
Whitaker’s time before the committee was not as productive as its members would have hoped. His testimony was marred by obfuscation, filibustering and, at times, outright refusal to answer questions posed by committee members. Nadler suspected this might be the case. “Your failure to respond fully to our questions here today in no way limits the ability of this committee to get answers in the long run, even if you’re a private citizen when we finally learn the truth,” he warned in his opening remarks, adding that “the time for this administration to postpone accountability is over.”
Whitaker didn’t get the message, and proceeded to cycle through a variety of evasion techniques, especially when asked about the Mueller investigation. When Nadler tried to ask him if he had ever been asked to approve of an action taken by the special counsel, Whitaker refused to answer, claiming Nadler had run out of time. “My Chairman, uhh, I see that your five minutes is up,” he said, to groans. “I’m here voluntarily, we’ve agreed to five minute rounds.”
Frustrated by his refusal to give direct answers, committee members began to ask Whitaker very simple yes or no questions. Not much changed. After bobbing and weaving around a series of basic questions from Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Whitaker again tried to cite the possible expiration of Lee’s time as an excuse. Lee wasn’t having it. “Mr Attorney General, we’re not joking here,” she said. “And your humor is not acceptable. Now, you’re here because we have a constitutional duty to ask questions, and the Congress has a right to establish government rules. The rules are that you are here.”
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) asked Whitaker whether the Constitution stipulated that a sitting president cannot be indicted. He refused to answer.
On several occasions, he tried to commandeer the committee members’ time, refusing to answer simple yes or no questions. This did not sit well with Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD).
When Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) asked Whitaker whether he considered Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation a “witch hunt,” Whitaker refused to answer, claiming it would be “inappropriate” for him to discuss an ongoing investigation.
Whitaker’s clogged-toilet testimony did produce a few notable admissions. He testified that he has not denied funds to Mueller or impeded the investigation in any way. He also explicitly said that he has not spoken to Trump about the investigation. Time will tell whether he’s telling the truth.