Thursday night the acting head of the United States Justice Department (DoJ)—President Donald Trump’s interim appointee for Attorney General Matt Whitaker—agreed to appear before the House Judiciary Committee.
Whitaker was called to answer questions about his involvement in the DoJ ordered investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible cooperation by members of the Trump campaign. Whitaker’s appointment drew immediate questions about his planned involvement in the investigation led by DoJ appointed Special Counsel Robert Mueller based on prior statements Whitaker made.
While the DoJ emphasized Whitaker volunteered to appear at the congressional hearing, the agreement was made under the condition he would not be subpoenaed to testify.
But his testimony was less than cooperative once the hearing began.
One clip, in particular, set Twitter ablaze, when Chairman Jerry Nadler asked Whitaker whether he has “ever been asked to approve any request or action to be taken by the Special Counsel.”
And Whitaker replied:
“Mr. Chairman, I see that your five minutes is up.”
Twitter wasn’t the only thing to light up at the acting Attorney General’s comment, the hearing room’s audible reaction of disbelief was evident as well.
Watch the exchange here:
Jerry Nadler asks Matthew Whitaker if he has ever been asked to approve any request or action to be taken by the Special Counsel.
Whitaker: “Mr. Chairman, I see that your five minutes is up.”
The response in the room is remarkable. Via CSPAN2 pic.twitter.com/UAcOyulX46
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) February 8, 2019
Representative Nadler was unable to contain his amusement at Whitaker’s attempt to avoid answering his question and to control the House Judiciary hearing.
“Mr. Chairman, i see that your five minutes is up,” Matt Whitaker says to Jerry Nadler, who controls the committee and can decide to talk as long as he’d like, essentially.
— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) February 8, 2019
Whitaker also decided to try again with Texas Democratic Representative Sheila Jackson Lee. But Jackson Lee reminded the acting AG of where he was and to whom he was speaking.
Whitaker makes a snide remark about Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee’s time.
Her response: “Mr Attorney General, we’re not joking here and your humor is not acceptable”
— Betsy Woodruff (@woodruffbets) February 8, 2019
People found Whitaker’s attitude and testimony troubling.
In the print copy of Whitaker’s opening remarks provided to the press by the DoJ, Whitaker planned to claim “the vast majority of the illegal drugs in this country is coming over our Southern border, a pattern that is true for all crimes.” However actual law enforcement statistics, coming from the Department of Justice, do not support Whitaker’s claims.
Because it seems to be not true ….. https://t.co/HhKzj8NFiT
— Brad Heath (@bradheath) February 8, 2019
People expected Whitaker to get pushback on his false claims. And he did from Republican Representative Louis Buller Gohmert Jr. of Texas.
Gohmert reads Whitaker part of his opening statement (which I quote-tweeted earlier) about the southern border and crime.
Whitaker says he doesn’t know what speech those words are from
— Betsy Woodruff (@woodruffbets) February 8, 2019
By the end of the day Whitaker will be answering, “Me no speak English.”
— Schooley (@Rschooley) February 8, 2019
People took exception with Whitaker’s responses to members of Congress.
In court he’d be held in contempt
— Jennifer Rubin (@JRubinBlogger) February 8, 2019
Imagine if Hillary Clinton replied in the same manner during the Benghazi hearings. Just imagine.
— Jowana Bueser (@jowanabueser) February 8, 2019
And in one breath, he reinforces the notion that Individual #1 didn’t pick “the best people”.
— Bajan Yoda (Professional Anger Translator™) (@cbirch15) February 8, 2019
Whitaker is the Jacob Wohl of Brett Kavanaughs
— AccaDaccca (@AccaDaccca) February 8, 2019
Including pointing out hypocrisy in Whitaker’s own testimony, first stating he could not comment on an open investigation when asked about his involvement with Special Counsel Mueller, then commenting on an open investigation of the FBI and DoJ.
Whitaker says he won’t discuss an ongoing investigation when Nadler asks about Mueller, but tells GOP ranking member that John Huber is looking into potential misconduct by FBI/DOJ in 2016.
— Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) February 8, 2019
And some thought Whitaker’s response and uncooperative nature warranted a subpoena from Congress.
He’s boarding the subpoena express.. ALL ABOARD! 🚂
— Been Doin’ It (@mrbillyanders) February 8, 2019
Matthew Whitaker is ready and willin’ to entertain all far-right, QAnon nutball conspiracy theories, but refuses to talk about a legally commissioned Special Counsel investigation into Russian intervention.
— Tea Pain (@TeaPainUSA) February 8, 2019
In his opening remarks, House Judiciary Committee Chair Nadler stated:
“In my view, your conduct, Mr. Whitaker—including your decision to ignore important ethics advice when you became acting Attorney General, no matter the consequences—your conduct, sir, falls well short of the mark.”
The congressional hearing is ongoing.