The Hill's 12:30 Report: Whitaker clashes with Dems at combative hearing

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*Ha. Haha. Hahah. Sniff. Haha. Sniff. Ha--breaks down crying hysterically.

 

The Hill's 12:30 Report: Whitaker gets grilling from House Dems | Sights and sounds from dramatic hearing | Whitaker tells chairman his time is up | Washington pays tribute to John DingellJohn DingellMcCain and Dingell: Inspiring a stronger Congress Pelosi should take a page from Tip O'Neill's playbook Alaskan becomes longest serving Republican in House history MORE | Dingell's best tweets | National Enquirer believes it 'acted lawfully' with Bezos | Trump to get yearly physical | Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisSteyer calls on DNC to expand polling criteria for debates Gabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch MORE, Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden evokes 1968, asks voters to imagine if Obama had been assassinated Biden blasts Trump's 'embarrassing' actions heading into G-7 summit Steyer calls on DNC to expand polling criteria for debates MORE have surprise meeting on Amtrak | National Pizza Day deals

 

HAPPENING THIS MORNING

Oh snap!:

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker is testifying before the House Judiciary Committee this morning. http://bit.ly/2tl8kzH

Why this is news: Whitaker had been sparring with committee Democrats on whether he would testify. The committee then voted to authorize a subpoena if he didn't show up. https://wapo.st/2SCNIB0

Keep in mind: Whitaker was a controversial pick for acting attorney general. He heavily criticized special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerMueller report fades from political conversation Trump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony MORE's investigation before President TrumpDonald John TrumpDavid Axelrod after Ginsburg cancer treatment: Supreme Court vacancy could 'tear this country apart' EU says it will 'respond in kind' if US slaps tariffs on France Ginsburg again leaves Supreme Court with an uncertain future MORE named him for the job. 

 

THE MOST DRAMATIC PART OF THE HEARING SO FAR: 

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) asked Whitaker: "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?" 

Whitaker: "Mr. Chairman, I see that your five minutes is up. I am here voluntarily. We have agreed to five-minute rounds." 

How Nadler reacted: He laughed.

How the room reacted: People audibly gasped. 

Some context: “Pretty eyebrow-raising breach of protocol. Committee rules, processes and procedures are how Congress organizes itself. Not for a witness to tell a chairman he's in violation of his own rules.” (Via The Wall Street Journal’s Byron Tauhttp://bit.ly/2TIwoIk

Watch the back and forth: http://bit.ly/2SBiCJX

 

NEWS FROM THE HEARING:

On the special counsel investigation: "I have not interfered in any way with the special counsel's investigation," Whitaker said. Why this is newsy: Critics are concerned about Whitaker's past statements criticizing the probe before he was named acting attorney general. 

Whether Whitaker discussed the Russia investigation with Trump: "I have not talked about the special counsel investigation with senior White House officials," Whitaker told the committee.

Live blog with updates: http://bit.ly/2tl8kzH

Livestream of the hearing: https://cs.pn/2SkxEV5

  

SIGHTS AND SOUNDS:

So. Many. Cameras.: Here's a photo of Whitaker getting sworn in: http://bit.ly/2RP8gld

A tribute to John Dingell: During opening remarks, Whitaker mentioned former Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), who passed away yesterday. "He was a statesman and a leader. And it is a sad day in this committee, I am sure."  

And so did House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.): "He loved the House of Representatives. We remember him for his humor, his charm, his unshakeable integrity, and of course his fantastic Twitter account." Watch: http://bit.ly/2E1kC6q

 

Happy Friday! I'm Cate Martel with a quick recap of the morning and what's coming up. Send comments, story ideas and events for our radar to cmartel@thehill.com -- and follow along on Twitter @CateMartel and  Facebook.

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TALK OF THE MORNING

Rest in peace to the longest-serving member of Congress -- and my absolute favorite Twitter personality:

Former Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) died yesterday at the age of 92. http://bit.ly/2tcIJJ9

How long he served in Congress: From 1955 until 2014. When he retired, his wife, Rep. Debbie DingellDeborah (Debbie) Ann DingellMichigan city declines to renew contract with ICE to hold detainees Gun reform groups to pressure GOP senators with rallies in all 50 states Automakers rebuff Trump, strike fuel efficiency deal with California MORE (D-Mich.), succeeded him in office. 

Read his New York Times obituary: https://nyti.ms/2DjtDpL

This morning -- flags at half-staff: House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi asks Democrats for 'leverage' on impeachment Is there internet life after thirty? Pelosi says Dems 'have to be ready to throw a punch — for the children' in 2020 MORE (D-Calif.) ordered flags throughout the U.S. Capitol to be lowered to half-staff. Photo: http://bit.ly/2TF4hJI

A moment of silence on the House floor: Photos: http://bit.ly/2DjBZOf

  

MY FAVORITE SIDE TO JOHN DINGELL -- A FEW OF HIS BEST TWEETS:

He tweeted two days ago: "The Lovely Deborah is insisting I rest and stay off here, but after long negotiations we've worked out a deal where she'll keep up with Twitter for me as I dictate the messages. I want to thank you all for your incredibly kind words and prayers. You're not done with me just yet." http://bit.ly/2GdAIfi

Dingell had a funny tweet about Howard Schultz just a week ago: "Someone told me that the man behind everyone's favorite cup of coffee might run for President and I just want to wish @TimHortons the very best. You have my support." http://bit.ly/2sTScox

About his Twitter followers: "Only 2,805,215 followers away from 3 million!" http://bit.ly/2GhXrXz

On the president's Mars goal: "I fully support @realDonaldTrump's interest in space travel to Mars, and I wish him the absolute best in his travels" http://bit.ly/2SBgjXh

I think most of the country would agree with this: "Staff has now informed me of what a Kardashian is. I'm only left with more questions." http://bit.ly/2HX8HKz 

Haha!: 

IF YOU CLICK ONE THING TODAY -- I PROMISE THIS WILL MAKE YOU SMILE: Dingell's former communications director Christopher Schuler tweeted last night, "I'll have plenty of stories to tell and memories to share on the life and love that was my friend @JohnDingell, but in the meantime here's a voicemail he left me in 2017 after he read a Buzzfeed article about a guy who got stuck in an ATM. my gift to you." Listen to Dingell's voicemail -- it's incredible: http://bit.ly/2GgTrXq

 

SPOTTED ON AMTRAK

It's like running into someone from your high school at a Target years later:

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), a 2020 presidential candidate, ran into former Vice President Joe Biden, who is considering a White House bid, on Amtrak. http://bit.ly/2ROK9Dh

Lol, a 360-degree view:

Here's a photo of the two chatting from the front: http://bit.ly/2WPRvu8

And a photo from the back: http://bit.ly/2UOMSP3

  

IN OTHER NEWS

Jeff Bezos is not having it:

Amazon CEO and The Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos accused the company that publishes the National Enquirer of blackmailing him with revealing photos. http://bit.ly/2MTORyN

How we know: Bezos published a Medium post including an email thread about the revealing text messages and photos.

From the Medium post: "Rather than capitulate to extortion and blackmail, I've decided to publish exactly what [American Media Inc.] sent me, despite the personal cost and embarrassment they threaten." Read Bezos's Medium post: http://bit.ly/2GgRiLm

What American Media Inc. wants: According to the emails from Bezos, AMI representatives said they would not publish the photos if Bezos agreed to publicly state that the National Enquirer's previous reporting on him wasn't politically motivated. http://bit.ly/2MTORyN

UPDATES:

Reaction from AMI: Via The Wrap’s Jon Levine, AMI said in a statement that it "believes fervently" that the company "acted lawfully in the reporting of the story of Mr. Bezos.” Read the full statement: http://bit.ly/2GsDpsV

Another alleged blackmail attempt: Journalist Ronan Farrow said AMI tried to blackmail him, as well. Farrow tweeted: “I and at least one other prominent journalist involved in breaking stories about the National Enquirer’s arrangement with Trump fielded similar ‘stop digging or we’ll ruin you’ blackmail efforts from AMI. (I did not engage as I don’t cut deals with subjects of ongoing reporting.)”  http://bit.ly/2TEXzDI

What Team Bezos thinks happened: During an appearance on MSNBC, Washington Post reporter Manuel Roig-Franzia said that an investigator hired by Bezos believes the leaked texts came from someone in government.  http://bit.ly/2MU6Q8h

 

NOTABLE TWEETS

I CANNOT.:

  

*Starts humming* 'It's just another day!':

Schwab then tweeted: "A quick Google search IDs these guys as Albert and Alberta Gator, the mascots for the Florida Gators" http://bit.ly/2WQuGGw

  

ON TAP

The House is in. The Senate is out. President Trump is getting his physical exam today and Vice President Pence is visiting the Port of Baltimore. 

10:45 a.m. EST: First and last votes in the House. 

12:45 p.m. EST: President Trump receives his annual physical exam at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

1:15 p.m. EST: Vice President Pence receives a briefing and tour on Non-Intrusive Inspection Systems Program Technology.

11 a.m. EST Saturday: Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenSteyer calls on DNC to expand polling criteria for debates Gabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch MORE (D-Mass.) makes a 2020 announcement in Lawrence, Mass. Details: http://bit.ly/2Dg1z6v

 

WHAT TO WATCH

2 p.m. EST: Vice President Pence speaks to U.S. Customs and Border Protection employees. Livestream: http://bit.ly/2BrICxL

 

NOW FOR THE FUN STUFF...

Today is National Molasses Bar Day. And because this is important, tomorrow is National Pizza Day!! Here's a list of pizza deals to celebrate the occasion: http://bit.ly/2SFQSny

 

Starbucks drinks can be v. controversial these days:

For Valentine's Day, Starbucks is bringing back the cherry mocha. Photos and details: https://on.today.com/2TFATmG

 

And because you made it this far, here's why you should think twice about getting a pet rabbit: http://bit.ly/2SgMVqc