Democrats Demand Acting Attorney General Testify on Mueller

(Bloomberg) -- Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker is being called to testify to the House Judiciary Committee by Jan. 29 to answer Democrats’ questions about whether he should recuse himself from overseeing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler suggested in a letter to Whitaker on Wednesday that the Justice Department is trying to slow-walk his previous commitment to appear before the newly Democratic-led panel. Nadler wrote that the acting attorney general offered to testify on Feb. 12 or 13 as long as the Justice Department "is at least two weeks removed from a partial government shutdown.”

"I cannot accept your proposal," wrote Nadler of New York. "We are willing to work with you to identify a mutually identifiable date for your testimony, but we will not allow that date to slip past Jan. 29," the day of President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address to Congress.

Democrats also want answers from Whitaker on issues including the Justice Department’s handling of voting rights, immigration, the Affordable Care Act, gun violence, foreign influence on the federal government, and the Violence Against Women Act.

Whitaker took charge of the Justice Department in November after 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, and his confirmation hearing is scheduled for next week.

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 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.

"The public is entitled to know why you chose to disregard the advice of career ethics officials," Nadler wrote. "Similarly, we are entitled to a clear explanation of the current line of responsibility for the supervision of the special counsel’s investigation."

Nadler also wrote, "We must discuss the impact of president’s near-daily statements attacking the integrity of the Department of Justice, the FBI, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation."

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