Acting Attorney General Whitaker Gets Subpoena Threat Ahead of Hearing

(Bloomberg) -- House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler said he is prepared to issue a subpoena to Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker if he tries to avoid answering questions under oath in a hearing with the panel scheduled for Friday.

Nadler said his committee will vote Thursday on whether to authorize him to issue a subpoena to Whitaker, particularly if he refuses to answer questions related to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and his interaction with the White House.

Acting Attorney General Whitaker Gets Subpoena Threat Ahead of Hearing

“In an abundance of caution -- to ensure that Mr. Whitaker both appears in the hearing room on Friday morning and answers our questions cleanly -- I have asked the committee to authorize me to issue a subpoena to compel his testimony,” Nadler said Tuesday in a statement. “If he appears on time and ready to answer those questions, the subpoena will be entirely unnecessary.”

Whitaker still plans to appear at Friday’s hearing, Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said Tuesday.

The top Republican on the Judiciary panel said the subpoena was unnecessary and sets a “dangerous precedent.”

“The message to witnesses here is, if you make the time and effort to appear of your own accord, Democrats are going to subpoena you anyway,” Representative Doug Collins of Georgia said in a statement.

Whitaker took charge of the Justice Department in November after President Donald Trump ousted former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Whitaker had served as Sessions’s chief of staff. Trump has since picked William Barr to succeed Sessions as attorney general, but he still awaits confirmation action in the Senate.

Democrats want to question Whitaker about whether he should have recused himself from overseeing Mueller’s investigation, among other matters.

And last week, Whitaker caused a stir by saying Mueller’s investigation was "close to being completed," adding, "I am comfortable that the decisions that were made are going to reviewed.” He didn’t elaborate.

Whitaker has criticized the Mueller probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, and some Democrats have raised concerns that he could interfere with the investigation.

Whitaker also decided not to recuse himself even though a Justice Department ethics official said a formal review would likely recommend a recusal, an agency official said in December.

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