Nadler sends Whitaker questions on possible contacts with Trump over Mueller probe

Nadler sends Whitaker questions on possible contacts with Trump over Mueller probe
© Greg Nash

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee is preemptively sharing a series of questions with Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker ahead of his open hearing in February, stating that he expects direct answers regarding the contacts he's had with 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 about the Russia probe.

Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) in a Tuesday letter to Whitaker said the committee “will not accept your declining to answer any question on the theory that the President may want to invoke his privileges in the future.” 

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"Please take any steps that may be necessary for the White House to consider these communications and for the President to determine whether he will invoke executive privilege," Nadler wrote.

The move comes a week after Democrats nailed down a time for Whitaker to testify before Congress on Feb. 8.

Among the prepared questions, Nadler asks Whitaker whether he had conversations with the president or others about assuming the acting AG role ahead of Trump firing then-Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsA better way to run the Federal Bureau of Prisons Trump admin erases key environmental enforcement tool DOJ should take action against China's Twitter propaganda MORE in early November -- and whether 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 probe was mentioned in these conversations.

The questions touch on how much Whitaker, a former U.S. attorney from Iowa, has been briefed on the probe and whether he relayed that information to those in the Trump administration.

Nadler will ask if Whitaker consulted the White House when he made the decision not to recuse himself from overseeing the investigation, while questioning the details surrounding the "four-person team of advisors" who gave him guidance on his recusal decision. 

Other questions center on Michael Cohen, including questions about Trump's reportedly angry outbursts at Whitaker when he found out his former personal lawyer had pleaded guilty.

Nadler told Whitaker last week that the open hearing will take place whether or not the government is shutdown and whether or not he is still serving as the Department of Justice's top cop.

The New York Democrat described Whitaker's testimony as "vital," particularly because of his role in supervising the Russia probe, which the top Democrats said must be protected "from undue influence or interference by the President of the United States."

The acting attorney general has faced immense scrutiny for being a Trump loyalist, with Democrats and some Republicans viewing him as a potential threat to the federal investigation that is examining alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

He is the first administration official to agree to testify publicly before the now Democrat-controlled House, and Democrats' efforts to pressure the acting attorney general to appear on Capitol Hill highlights the new majority's aggressiveness in calling in administration officials.