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Acting AG Matt Whitaker agrees to testify before House on Feb. 8

Testimony will be Whitaker’s first since he took over for Jeff Sessions in October

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker has agreed to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on Feb. 8, 2019. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker has agreed to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on Feb. 8, 2019. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler and acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker have agreed for Whitaker to testify before the committee in early February, partial government shutdown or no.

The appearance is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 8, at 9:30 a.m.

“Thank you for continuing to work with us to find a time for you to testify before the House Committee on the Judiciary,” Nadler wrote in a letter to Whitaker on Tuesday. “I am happy to have reached an agreement for you to appear.”

Whitaker has not appeared for testimony in the three months since he took over from fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sessions last came before the committee more than 15 months ago, on Nov. 14, 2017.

Whitaker spoke with House Democrats by phone in November and agreed to testify once Democrats took control of the House.

Democrats have raised red flags about previous comments Whitaker made before he was elevated to acting AG where he cast doubt on the need for a special counsel to investigate Russian election interference in 2016 and possible ties between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russian officials.

Nadler rejected Whitaker’s previous request to delay his appearance before the panel to mid-February “so long as [the Justice Department] is at least two weeks removed from a partial government shutdown.”

In a letter to Whitaker last week, Nadler cited internal Justice Department guidance from 1995, when the Office of Legal Counsel wrote that, in the event of a government shutdown, “the Department may continue activities such as providing testimony at hearings if the Department’s participation is necessary for the hearing to be effective.”

In his letter Tuesday, Nadler advised Whitaker to “provide direct answers,” and, if he plans to avoid certain questions by invoking executive privilege, to consult with the White House counsel to prepare for such invocations.

“The Committee will expect you to provide direct answers to questions asked by members of both parties,” Nadler wrote. “If you plan to invoke executive privilege in an attempt to avoid answering any particular question, I ask that you consult with the White House well in advance of the hearing.”

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