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Acting U.S. attorney general will testify before House panel

08 Февраля 2019

The Justice Department told the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday afternoon that acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker would not appear at Friday's closely-watched oversight hearing unless he receives a written assurance he won't be served with a subpoena.

By arming themselves with a pre-emptive subpoena to dangle over Whitaker's head on Friday during his voluntary testimony, the committee's Democrats had hoped to expedite disclosure of his conversations with Trump.

Nadler did not detail his discussions with the department but tweeted Thursday evening: "CONFIRMED: Acting Attorney General Whitaker will appear tomorrow morning at 9:30am".

Nadler is seeking answers about "confidential presidential communications no Attorney General could ever be expected to disclose under the circumstances", Whitaker wrote in his letter Thursday.

"Without the threat of a subpoena, I believe it may be hard to hold Mr. Whitaker to this standard", Nadler said earlier Thursday.

Whitaker is scheduled to testify Friday. "Such unprecedented action breaches our prior agreement and circumvents the constitutionally required accommodation process". "Political theater is not the goal of an oversight hearing, and I will not allow that to be the case", Whitaker wrote.

In it, Whitaker told the panel that he is willing to testify tomorrow, as long as the committee doesn't issue the subpoena.

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Democrats have vowed to press Whitaker at the hearing about his conversations with President Trump, and Whitaker's decision not to recuse himself from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. "If he appears on time and ready to answer those questions, the subpoena will be entirely unnecessary", Nadler said.

Whitaker has faced questions since Trump appointed him over his criticism of the Mueller probe.

Nadler responded to the Justice Department letter by telling Whitaker that a subpoena would not be necessary if he answered lawmakers' questions, and questions he would not be able to answer would be handled on a "case-by-case basis". Earlier Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to the send nomination of William Barr as next US attorney general to the full Senate for consideration.

The hearing will be the committee's first major oversight hearing looking at the Justice Department of this Congress. Whitaker told reporters last week that Mueller's probe was "close to being completed", the first official sign that the investigation may be nearing an end.

Boyd laid out an argument for asserting such executive privilege in the letter, saying that administration officials from both parties have declined to answer questions about conversations they have had with the president.

"This subpoena is nothing short of political theater, choreographed by the chairman and starring the acting attorney general as some mythological protector of secrets", said Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the panel.

"We want to add Mr. Rosenstein to get at the heart of the matter of the questions", said Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), who presented the amendment to add Rosenstein's name to the subpoena authorization. "They're not anxious about him showing up-he's already said he's coming".

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Acting U.S. attorney general will testify before House panel