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Acting US attorney general snaps at Democrats over Russia probe

Acting US attorney general snaps at Democrats over Russia probe

Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker's testimony before the House Judiciary Committee Friday, widely rebuked by Democrats, has also earned the scorn of a former leading Federal Bureau of Investigation official.

When Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) asked Whitaker if he'd ever been asked to "approve any request or action to be taken by" Mueller, the acting AG answered, "Mr. Chairman, I see that your five minutes is up, so".

During a testy exchange with Democratic Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, Mr Whitaker at one point responded: "Mr Chairman, it appears that your five minutes is up", triggering tense laughter in the chamber. And I took notes on what we learned (or re-learned) from what Whitaker said (and didn't).

Whitaker had threatened not to show up to the hearing after Democrats approved a subpoena if he didn't answer all their questions, but the committee chairman dropped the threat Thursday night.

Whitaker eventually answered, "We have followed the special counsel's regulations to a T. There has been no event, no decision that has required me to take any action".

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker revealed on Friday that the USA attorney for the Eastern District of California, Greg Scott, sat in on a briefing Whitaker received on special counsel Robert Mueller's probe.

Whitaker took over from Attorney General Jeff Sessions on November 7, the day after the midterm election, when Trump successfully sought the resignation of his top law enforcement official.

Mr Whitaker is due to be replaced by William Barr after a Senate confirmation hearing in the coming weeks.

Whitaker was referring to time limits that are placed on members as they question witnesses. But Whitaker declined to say if he had discussed with Rosenstein the deputy attorney general's comments about invoking the 25th Amendment in an effort to trigger Trump's removal from office.

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"I fully intend to call you back for an interview, under subpoena if necessary", Nadler said. 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.

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker will tell lawmakers that there has been no change in the "overall management" of the special counsel's Russian Federation investigation.

Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) denounced the "theatrics" of the proceedings and said they were "nothing more than a character assassination".

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff has also announced a sweeping investigation into Mr Trump's actions as president, and has hired former White House staff members to aid in the probe.

The tense atmosphere was apparent from the start, as Nadler told Whitaker that as he answered questions, he would "expect either a clean answer or a proper assertion of privilege claimed by the president".

"This is such a compelling issue, Joy, you and I have talked about it before", Jayapal said, "Republicans and Democrats agree that this was a heinous crime that has been committed against thousands of children".

On social media, critics expressed shock at Whitaker's conduct, with some asserting that his rebuke of Nadler-like Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh's angry testimony before a Senate committee in September-was likely for President Donald Trump's benefit. Whitaker promptly responded by saying he would not attend the hearing if the subpoena was used.

Democrats said they would inquire about Whitaker's past business dealings, too.