screengrab from https://youtu.be/kfl4vVli9n0
Ever since the Democrats regained control of the House of Representatives, they’ve made no secret about their intention to have acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker testify before the House Judiciary Committee. An agreement was finally reached yesterday that Whitaker would testify today only if the Democrats gave their assurances (for whatever that’s worth) that he would not be subpoenaed.
I don’t know what the Democrats hoped to gain from this. The things they are interested in, that is, Whitaker’s conversations with President Trump or anything concerning his management of Robert Mueller, are not subject to Congressional oversight and Whitaker is under no moral, legal, or ethical obligation to respond to them. On CNN, Wolf Blitzer and his “Situation Room” brain trust speculated that the Democrats were counting on Whitaker floundering around.
“I think the president thinks if Whitaker does go, he wants him to look good. If he goes and is getting grilled by these Democrats, the president won’t look favorably upon that,” CNN reporter Katlin Collins said.
CNN contributor Bianna Golodryga explained that Whitaker looked “uncomfortable” in the past while answering questions.
“This is an optics driven administration and this could be a stall tactic by Whitaker,” Golodryga said. “Remember how uncomfortable he was when asked questions about the Mueller investigation? He started sweating profusely and did not know how to answer questions directly.”
“If that was a taste of what could possibly come, this could be an administration and even a Justice Department that doesn’t want to see something like that repeated,” she said.
If that was the White House’s worry, that concern was misplaced:
Whitaker laid the groundwork for a likely tussle with Democrats by saying in his opening statement that while he would address their questions, he would not reveal details of his communications with the Republican president.
“I trust that the Members of this Committee will respect the confidentiality that is necessary to the proper functioning of the Presidency — just as we respect the confidentiality necessary to the Legislative Branch,” Whitaker said.
“There has been no change in the overall management of the Special Counsel investigation,” Whitaker will say, according to his prepared remarks. “I have and will continue to manage this investigation in a manner that is consistent with the governing regulations.”
When the committee chairman, Jerry “That Isn’t Blubber That’s a Gravy Injection” Nadler pressed him, an instant classic was created.
"In your capacity as acting attorney general, have you ever been asked to approve any request or action to be taken by the special counsel?" Rep. Nadler asked.
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) February 8, 2019
“Mr. Chairman, I see that your 5 minutes are up,” Whitaker says to Nadler, trying to cut him off. A witness never does that to a chairman. Dems shocked
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) February 8, 2019
And Whitaker made it stick. Nadler acted like a frightened octopus retreating behind a cloud of ink. (See a synopsis of the testimony.)
I really hope Whitaker sets the bar for performances by Trump officials. Congress has every right to conduct policy oversight and budgetary oversight. What they don’t have a right to do is delve into management decisions made by executive branch officers that were within their authority.
I’m on Facebook. Drop by and join the fun there.