The Friday morning committee hearing with Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker has “erupted in fireworks,” Fox News reports, as members are going at one another.
The clash reportedly started with Republican Ranking Member Doug Collins who accused Democratic Chairman Jerrold Nadler and others Democrats on the committee of “character assassination.”
“This hearing is a character assassination on Acting Attorney General Whitaker, all pure political theater, to go after the president,” Collins, who is from Georgia said in his opening statement, via Fox News.
According to the report, Nadler said he considered using a subpoena to get Whitaker to testify, despite the acting attorney general voluntarily agreeing to testify.
From the report:
A vote was then taken on whether to abruptly end the hearing. The measure did not pass, and the hearing began as scheduled, with Whitaker addressing the issue Democrats are most interested in: his oversight of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.
In his opening statement, he said he never offered “promises or commitments” regarding the Mueller or any other investigation.
“There has been no change in the overall management of the special counsel investigation,” he said.
Whitaker also said he’s been briefed and the probe and, during a tense exchange with Nadler, said he has not discussed the status with President Trump or senior White House officials.
Then things started to heat up…
The hearing follows an intense back and forth between the Justice Department and the Judiciary Committee a day earlier.
The Judiciary Committee voted Thursday to give Nadler the authority to issue a subpoena if necessary, despite Whitaker having already agreed to appear before the panel voluntarily.
Nadler made clear early Thursday that he did not want to have to subpoena Whitaker, but said a “series of troubling events” suggested it would be better for him to be prepared with that authority, just in case he decided not to show up for the hearing.
“This is no way to run the railroad and it’s definitely no way to run one of the most prestigious committees in the House,” Collins said, via the Washington Examiner
He added: “I’m thinking maybe we just set up a popcorn machine in the back, because it’s becoming a show.”
Although Whitaker later agreed to appear before the committee, he said on Thursday: “Based upon today’s action, it is apparent that the committee’s true intention is not to discuss the great work of the Department of Justice, but to create a public spectacle. Political theater is not the purpose of an oversight hearing, and I will not allow that to be the case.”
In one particular exchange, Whitaker called out the committee chairman for exceeding his own five-minute rule. Check it out:
BASED Acting AG Whitaker:
"Mr. Chairman, I see that your 5 minutes is up." pic.twitter.com/FldVQKwjHW
— Benny (@bennyjohnson) February 8, 2019
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) February 8, 2019