Matt Whitaker to Eric Swalwell: 'I am not your puppet'

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In a political drama that enfolded on Thursday, Whitaker had threatened not to appear at the hearing after Democrats threatened to use a subpoena to compel him to answer certain questions. The rules are that you are here, so I need to ask the question and I need to have my time restored so that you can behave appropriately.

"A voluntary witness (as Whitaker was) can refuse to answer questions, but a witness appearing pursuant to a subpoena is required to testify".

"I am not your puppet, to repeat what you are saying", Mr. Whitaker responded.

The exchange grew more contentious when Whitaker flatly refused to answer Nadler when he asked whether Whitaker's approval had ever been requested for action by Mueller's probe.

"Mr. Attorney General, we're not joking here, and your humor is not acceptable", Jackson Lee said.

At the hearing, Whitaker said that he had not interfered in the Mueller investigation. Whitaker demanded, and eventually received, assurances that he would not be subpoenaed if he appeared. They also know that Trump supporters and many Republican voters will balk if the Democrats are perceived as overreaching, pushy, or bullying.

"This is a breach of the agreement", and a "striking departure from long-standing processes".

Whitaker also denied media reports that Trump lashed out at him after learning his former lawyer and personal fixer Michael Cohen was pleading guilty for lying to Congress about a proposed Trump Tower in Moscow. He's an outstanding person.

Watch above for live updates when the hearing begins at 9:30 a.m. Nadler and three other House committee chairmen released documents that they said show Whitaker failed to return thousands of dollars that were supposed to be distributed to victims of a company's alleged fraud.

The stalemate ended Thursday evening after the committee chairman, Nadler of NY, said the committee would not issue a subpoena if Whitaker appeared voluntarily.

Nadler has warned Whitaker that he should not try to dodge questions by asserting the answers could involve matters subject to executive privilege, and provided Whitaker in advance with a list of questions he can expect on Friday. "But DOJ will argue that some of those conversations were protected by executive privilege".

"I'm thinking maybe we just set up a popcorn machine in the back", said Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the House judiciary committee.

"Weeks ago, in good faith, I voluntarily agreed to appear and testify on February 8 before the House Judiciary Committee", Whitaker wrote in a letter to Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler Thursday afternoon.

Olivia Beavers, a reporter at The Hill, posted a photo of Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) in shock over Whitaker's response. "There has been no breakdown here".

"In a quest to score political points against the President, they authorized a preemptive subpoena, treating a voluntary witness as hostile", Collins said.

In a combative congressional hearing, Whitaker said he had not talked to Trump about the probe into whether Moscow tried to tip the 2016 presidential election, or "interfered in any way" in the investigation since taking his role in November. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted along party lines Thursday to approve Barr's nomination, sending the pick to the full Senate.

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