Acting AG Matthew Whitaker tells lawmakers he hasn't interfered in Mueller investigation

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AFP Getty Images

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, appointed after Jeff Sessions resigned past year, was grilled by Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee on Friday about whether his appointment was made to protect Trump from Robert Mueller's special counsel investigation. When Nadler gaveled the hearing into a five-minute recess, Whitaker said into an open mic: "Five minutes for lunch?"

"We're not joking here and your humor is not acceptable", said Texas Rep. and panel member Sheila Jackson Lee.

Acting attorney general Matthew G. Whitaker said he will not appear before Congress Friday without assurances he won't be subpoenaed - giving Democrats a deadline of 6 p.m. Thursday to respond.

"There has been no change in the overall management of the special counsel investigation", Whitaker will say, according to his prepared remarks.

Whitaker testified following a lengthy fight with Nadler over the prospect that he would be subpoenaed for not answering questions.

Nadler, giving off a laugh of disbelief, called for a break from the hearing.

But he did not hold back in his opening statement, repudiated Whitaker's decision not to recuse himself from the Mueller probe, despite the recommendations of Justice Department officials.

Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., tried to adjourn the hearing before it started, saying it was an attempt at assassinating Trump's character.

"Mr. Whitaker, you don't run this committee", Raskin said.

Whitaker's time as acting attorney general will likely be coming to an end soon.

Just after the Senate panel voted on Barr, Whitaker fired off the letter letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler.

But the antagonism between House Democrats and Whitaker was on full display throughout the hearing on Friday.

"I have not talked to the president of the United States about the special counsel investigation", Mr Whitaker told the House Judiciary Committee. Here's one: Trump's acting attorney general involved in firm that scammed veterans out of life savings. 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. Trump's pick to head the DOJ, former Attorney General William Barr, is poised for Senate confirmation in the near future. Nadler said that is "ridiculous" and administration officials must provide the committee with answers or a better excuse to withhold them. 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. He finally pledged to appear if the House dropped its threat of a subpoena.

So far, the hearing has not shed much light on the status of the Mueller investigation - and it may not. The president has also said there was no collusion between his campaign and Russian Federation.

When the congresswoman turned back to Whitaker, he hesitated and said, "I'm sorry, what was your- I don't know if your time's been restored or not", prompting some laughter from the room.

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