Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker stood his ground Friday against hostile Democratic questioning about his private conversations with President Donald Trump, ongoing litigation and border security issues.
Although Whitaker did not divulge his private conversations with Trump, he did respond numerous times to multiple Democrats on one question regarding Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office. He emphatically stated that he has never discussed the subject with Trump.
Whitaker and Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Jerry Nadler wrangled in several dramatic heated exchanges. Nadler pressed Whitaker, who became acting Attorney General last November, on his private conversations with Trump and other senior White House officials. Whitaker had already expressed at the onset of the hearing and earlier in the week that he would not divulge any private conversations with the president, as those conversations are protected by executive privilege.
“I do not intend today to talk about my private conversations with the President of the United States, but to answer your question, I have not talked to the President of the United States about the special counsel’s investigation,” said Whitaker.
Whitaker reiterated numerous times throughout the hearing that he has not interfered with Mueller’s investigation.
Despite Whitaker’s Statement on Mueller, Democrats Kept Asking
But it didn’t stop Democrats from pushing.
Rep. Val Demings, D-Florida, asked combative questions. She interrupted Whitaker multiple times as he attempted to answer her questions.
She questioned Whitaker’s truthfulness. Demings asked Whitaker if he ever talked to anyone in the White House about Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen. She then asked if Whitaker had ever discussed personnel at the Southern District of New York. Cohen is being charged with tax fraud, making false statements to a financial institution, unlawful campaign contributions and unlawful corporate contributions.
“Did you discuss with President Trump anything about Michael Cohen?” charged Demings, as her voice grew louder.
“Did you talk with anybody at all about reassigning or firing any personnel with the Southern District of New York? Anybody from the District of Virginia, firing or reassigning anyone at all,” she scowled.
“I am not going to discuss my private conversations with the President of the United States,” Whitaker responded.
Whitaker Debunks CNN Story
Later under questioning by Rep. David Nicola Cicilline, D-Rhode Island, Whitaker was asked about a CNN story alleging that Trump had lashed out at him several times when Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the proposed Trump Moscow project.
This time he answered.
“Did the President lash out to you after Michael Cohen’s guilty plea about a Trump Organization project to build a tower in Moscow?” asked Cicilline.
“The president specifically tweeted that he had not lashed out,” he responded.
Cicilline then said “I’m asking you Mr. Whitaker, did the president lash out at you, I’m not asking what he tweeted. I don’t have a lot of confidence in the veracity of his tweets, I’m asking you.”
“No, he did not,” he said, after a short heated exchange.