"This hearing is important because there are many Americans throughout the country who are confused".
Nadler, who was the only Democrat to question Whitaker before they recessed for votes, pushed the acting attorney general hard about his involvement with the Mueller investigation. "In your final week, keep your hands off the Mueller investigation".
In his opening remarks, Whitaker said he was ready to answer questions -but not all of them. "At no time has the White House asked for, nor have I provided, any promises or commitments concerning the special counsel's investigation or any other investigation".
"Mr. Chairman, I see that your five minutes is up", Whitaker said, prompting gasps and laughter at the official's tenacity in the face of a committee chairman.
"Lawmakers routinely go over their five minute time limits for questioning, and it is normally up to the chair to limit the proceedings", noted The Hill. Whitaker balked at the subpoena threat until Nadler took a more conciliatory stance.
"You decided that your private interest in overseeing this particular investigation - and perhaps others from which you should have been recused - was more important than the integrity of the department", said Nadler, of NY. And they immediately vowed to further question the Justice Department official at a later date by threatening to issue a subpoena.
Political drama erupted on Thursday when Democrats threatened to serve Whitaker a subpoena if he failed to answer certain questions at the hearing. "Political theater is not the goal of an oversight hearing, and I will not allow that to be the case". Keep in mind, Whitaker was willing to appear without the subpoena. "It's becoming a show".
Whitaker: ... As I sit here today, I don't have any reason to believe that.
In a statement on Thursday night, Kerri Kupec, a Whitaker spokeswoman, said that the acting attorney general had been assured that Nadler would not issue a subpoena "on or before February 8". Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee got into a testy exchange with the acting attorney general about whether the Mueller investigation was a "witch hunt" - one of the President's signature insults.
FBI Director Christopher Wray, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Trump's pick for attorney general, William Barr, have maintained that they do not believe the investigation to be a witch hunt.
Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who Trump effectively fired in November, had recused from overseeing the Russian Federation investigation.
Nadler reminded Whitaker that the committee had submitted questions relating to the special counsel investigation and was waiting on answers.
Whitaker tried to interrupt, sparking a yelling match. "At one point, he said [he did not speak with Trump about Mueller], but then he alluded, I think, to some conversations". (Nota bene: Whitaker was under oath.) My observations are in the chronological order that Whitaker said them.
It was unclear whether Whitaker would even show up until late Thursday night after weeks of disputes between the Department of Justice and the House Judiciary committee. House Democrats also berated Whitaker on the administration's immigration policy and about family separations at the border. Democrats flexed their newfound investigatory powers at Whitaker's hearing, which acted as a crystal ball into what's likely to come for other Trump-related issues and members of the administration the party plans to investigate. Whitaker was an outspoken critic of the investigation before arriving at the Justice Department in 2017.