pcloudy.png
Thursday September 19th, 2019 7:55PM

Acting AG overseeing Mueller probe says he's not interfered

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

WASHINGTON (AP) — Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker said on Friday that he has "not interfered in any way" in the special counsel's Russia investigation as he faced a contentious and partisan congressional hearing in his waning days on the job.

The hearing before the House Judiciary Committee was the first, and likely only, chance for newly empowered Democrats in the majority to grill an attorney general they perceive as a Donald Trump loyalist and whose appointment they suspect was aimed at suppressing investigations of the Republican president. They confronted Whitaker on his past criticism of special counsel Robert Mueller's work and his refusal to recuse himself from overseeing it, attacked him over his prior business dealings and sneeringly challenged his credentials as the country's chief law enforcement officer.

"We're all trying to figure out: Who are you, where did you come from and how the heck did you become the head of the Department of Justice," said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries. When Whitaker tried to respond, the New York Democrat interrupted, "Mr. Whitaker, that was a statement, not a question. I assume you know the difference."

Yet Democrats yielded no new information about the status of the Mueller probe as Whitaker repeatedly refused to discuss conversations with the president or answer questions that he thought might reveal details. Though clearly exasperated — he drew gasps and chuckles when he told the committee chairman that his five-minute time limit for questions was up — Whitaker nonetheless sought to assuage Democratic concerns by insisting he had never discussed the Mueller probe with Trump or other White House officials, and that there'd been no change in its "overall management."

"We have followed the special counsel's regulations to a T," Whitaker said. "There has been no event, no decision, that has required me to take any action, and I have not interfered in any way with the special counsel's investigation."

Republicans made clear they viewed the hearing as pointless political grandstanding, especially since Whitaker may have less than a week left in the job, and some respected his wishes by asking questions about topics other than Mueller's probe into potential coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign. The Senate is expected to vote as soon as next week on confirming William Barr, Trump's pick for attorney general.

"I'm thinking about maybe we just set up a popcorn machine in the back because that's what this is becoming. It's becoming a show," said Republican Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, who accused his Democratic colleagues of "character assassination."

But Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the committee chairman who a day earlier had threatened to subpoena Whitaker to ensure his appearance, left no doubt about his party's focus.

"You decided that your private interest in overseeing this particular investigation, and perhaps others from which you should have been recused, was more important than the integrity of the department," said Nadler, of New York. "The question that this committee must now ask is: Why?"

Whitaker toggled between defending his role in the special counsel's investigation and echoing the president's talking points, conceding for instance that while foreign interference in U.S. elections was a problem, so too was voter fraud — a key issue for Republicans, but one that Democrats say is overstated. He said he had no reason to doubt Mueller's honesty or to believe that he was conflicted in his leadership of the investigation.

But he also declined to say if he still agreed with sharply critical comments about the Mueller probe that he made as a television commentator before arriving at the Justice Department in the fall of 2017 as chief of staff to then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions. And he passed up a chance to break from the president's characterization of the Mueller investigation as a "witch hunt," saying simply, "I think it would be inappropriate for me to comment about an ongoing investigation."

FBI Director Christopher Wray, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Barr have all maintained that they do not believe the investigation to be a witch hunt.

Whitaker also denied a news report that Trump had lashed out at him after the guilty plea of Michael Cohen, the president's former lawyer. But he did not answer directly about whether he had discussed that investigation, run by prosecutors in New York, with Trump, insisting only that the president had never instructed him to take particular actions.

He said his comment at an unrelated news conference last week that the Mueller investigation was close to wrapping up — a remark that generated significant attention and speculation — reflected only "my position as acting attorney general." He said Mueller would finish on his own schedule.

White House officials kept an eye on Whitaker's performance and, while they appreciated his combative tone and aggressive defense of the administration, there was a sense from aides that his performance, at times, appeared halting and ill-prepared. The president himself kept an eye on the proceedings before leaving the White House for his annual physical.

Democrats also inquired about Whitaker's past business dealings. 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. Whitaker has come under scrutiny for his involvement with the invention promotion company, which was accused of misleading consumers.

Whitaker, a former U.S. attorney from Iowa, took over when Sessions was forced from the Cabinet last November as Trump seethed over Sessions' decision to step aside from overseeing the Russia investigation. Trump insists there was "no collusion" between his campaign and Russia.

Nadler said Friday that he wanted Whitaker to return for a deposition in the coming weeks.

___

Associated Press writers Chad Day and Jonathan Lemire contributed to this report.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP Business, AP Business - Corporate News
© Copyright 2019 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Funeral, memorial planned for longtime Rep. John Dingell
A funeral and a public memorial will be held next week to honor former Rep. John Dingell, the longest-serving member of Congress in U.S. history
4:42PM ( 13 minutes ago )
Arizona wants care unit where patient was raped to stay open
Arizona is contesting a long-term care facility's decision to shut down the unit where an incapacitated woman was raped and later gave birth
4:40PM ( 15 minutes ago )
Larger groups seen crossing border as overall arrests drop
Central American migrants are increasingly entering the United States illegally in large groups in rugged, remote stretches of the Mexican border, while overall border arrests drop for a second straight month in January
4:37PM ( 18 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
In or out of the House, John Dingell was at home on Twitter
John Dingell was long known for his dry takes and quick wit alongside his mastery of legislative deal-making. But the longest-serving Congress member's musings on Twitter caught people by surprise and kept him au courant.
4:17PM ( 38 minutes ago )
Volunteers ready US aid set for Venezuela as Maduro digs in
Standing before a warehouse filled with sacks of rice, canned tuna and biscuits, Venezuela's opposition vowed Friday to deliver U.S. humanitarian aid to their troubled nation, even if it means staging a mass mobilization of people to carry it in
4:16PM ( 40 minutes ago )
Virginia Democrats try to thread the needle on crisis
Confronted with a triple threat to the party's top ranks, Virginia Democrats are trying to thread the needle
3:55PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP National News
Volunteers ready US emergency aid to be sent into Venezuela
U.S. humanitarian aid destined for Venezuela is being prepared at a warehouse on the Colombian border, as opposition leader Juan Guaido assures his desperate countrymen that supplies will reach them despite objections from President Nicolas Maduro
2:17PM ( 2 hours ago )
Trump's counselor claims woman assaulted her at restaurant
President Donald Trump's White House counselor Kellyanne Conway says she was grabbed and shaken by a woman at a Mexican restaurant in Maryland late last year
2:02PM ( 2 hours ago )
Abortion case shows Roberts firmly at Supreme Court's center
Chief Justice John Roberts broke with the Supreme Court's other conservative justices and his own voting record on abortion to block a Louisiana law requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital
1:41PM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Online National News
AP sources: Prosecutors probing Enquirer after Bezos report
Federal prosecutors are looking into the National Enquirer's handling of a story about Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' extramarital affair to see if the tabloid's publisher violated a cooperation agreement with prosecutors
1:23PM ( 3 hours ago )
Female tiger at London zoo killed by prospective mate
London Zoo says one of its female Sumatran tigers has been killed by a potential mate while the two animals were being introduced
12:37PM ( 4 hours ago )
Supreme Court blocks Louisiana abortion clinic law
A divided Supreme Court is stopping Louisiana from enforcing new regulations on abortion clinics
12:35PM ( 4 hours ago )
Top General short headlines
The Latest: Booker stresses social justice in Iowa stop
New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker is taking his call for social justice to Iowa, where he was visiting with African-American leaders on his first trip to the early 2020 caucus state as a Democratic presidential candidate
3:06PM ( 1 hour ago )
US peace envoy says talks with Taliban far from finished
The Trump administration's peace envoy for Afghanistan says that although his talks with the Taliban have produced a tentative "framework" agreement, the negotiations have a long way to go to achieve peace
2:53PM ( 2 hours ago )
Greek parliament set to back Macedonia's NATO accession
Greek lawmakers are set to approve Macedonia's NATO accession, ending a stepped process to normalize relations between the two neighbors and anchor the country _ renamed North Macedonia _ firmly within the western sphere of influence
2:45PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
Irish PM says he's listening, but not negotiating on Brexit
The British and Irish leaders are looking to mend fences after a week of Brexit tensions with a dinner in Dublin, but have dampened expectations of a breakthrough on the thorny issue of the Irish border
11:32AM ( 5 hours ago )
Whitaker squares off with Democrats at fiery hearing
Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker faces a sharply divided congressional committee, with Democrats pressing him on his relationship to President Donald Trump and oversight of the special counsel's Russia investigation
10:17AM ( 6 hours ago )
John Dingell, longest serving member of Congress, dies at 92
Former Rep. John Dingell, who served nearly six decades in the U.S. House, was hard to typecast
10:07AM ( 6 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
FDA questions Juul, Altria commitment to combat teen vaping
FDA questions commitment to stop teen vaping from e-cigarette maker Juul, partner Altria
4:09PM ( 46 minutes ago )
Manfred: No DH or draft changes likely for 2019
Manfred knocks down prospect of DH in NL, calling issue too complicated to put in place this season
3:52PM ( 1 hour ago )
S&P 500 set for another down week as January's rally fizzles
U.S. stocks are down in afternoon trading, joining a worldwide move lower as concerns remain high about global trade and the strength of the economy
2:52PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Business
Enquirer says it will investigate Bezos extortion claims
The publisher of the National Enquirer says it will look into claims of extortion and blackmail by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos
10:49AM ( 6 hours ago )
Bezos tells of Enquirer threats to publish revealing pics
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says he was the target of "extortion and blackmail" by publisher of the National Enquirer
4:32AM ( 12 hours ago )
US officials to investigate San Francisco gas explosion
The National Transportation Safety Board will investigate a natural gas explosion on a San Francisco street that sent flames into the sky for hours and damaged five buildings
1:27AM ( 15 hours ago )
AP Business - Corporate News
Funeral, memorial planned for longtime Rep. John Dingell
A funeral and a public memorial will be held next week to honor former Rep. John Dingell, the longest-serving member of Congress in U.S. history
4:42PM ( 13 minutes ago )
Arizona wants care unit where patient was raped to stay open
Arizona is contesting a long-term care facility's decision to shut down the unit where an incapacitated woman was raped and later gave birth
4:40PM ( 15 minutes ago )
Larger groups seen crossing border as overall arrests drop
Central American migrants are increasingly entering the United States illegally in large groups in rugged, remote stretches of the Mexican border, while overall border arrests drop for a second straight month in January
4:37PM ( 18 minutes ago )
Official: Virginia governor says he won't resign over photo
A senior official in Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam's administration says the governor has told his top staff that he does not plan to resign over a racist photo despite intense pressure to step down
4:35PM ( 21 minutes ago )
Amid sanctions calls, Saudis deny prince had role in slaying
A senior Saudi official is insisting the kingdom's crown prince had no role in the death of a Washington Post columnist as he seeks to end efforts in Congress to impose sanctions on the country
4:27PM ( 28 minutes ago )