Whitaker to testify publicly Friday, Judiciary chairman says

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker will testify as planned before the House Judiciary Committee on Friday, Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said. 

“CONFIRMED: Acting Attorney General Whitaker will appear tomorrow morning at 9:30am,” Nadler announced on Twitter Thursday evening.

The development came shortly after Nadler sent a letter to Whitaker saying there would be “no need” for the committee to subpoena him if he appeared before the panel as scheduled and is prepared to respond to questions.

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Whitaker had agreed to testify publicly before the committee last month on Feb. 8. However, his appearance was abruptly called into question on Thursday after the Democrat-led panel voted to authorize a subpoena to ensure his appearance, in the case he declined to show up or answer certain questions by citing executive privilege.

Whitaker said later Thursday that he would not testify unless the committee's chairman withdrew the subpoena threat. The acting attorney general requested that Nadler commit to not issuing the subpoena in the next two days and to engaging in "good faith negotiations."

“Such unprecedented action breaches our prior agreement and circumvents the constitutionally required accommodation process,” Whitaker said. “Based upon today’s action, it is apparent that the Committee’s true intention is not to discuss the great work of the Department of Justice, but to create a public spectacle.” 

Nadler’s letter later on Thursday evening appeared to be an effort to diffuse the battle over his testimony.

“If you appear before the Committee tomorrow morning and if you are prepared to respond to questions from our Members, then I assure you that there will be no need for the Committee to issue a subpoena on or before February 8,” Nadler wrote.

“To the extent that you believe you are unable to fully respond to any specific question, we are prepared to handle your concerns on a case-by-case basis, both during and after tomorrow’s hearing,” Nadler added.

Whitaker’s testimony Friday is expected to be explosive. Whitaker has been a flashpoint of controversy since Trump tapped him to helm the Justice Department in November, following Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsLewandowski says he's under no obligation to speak truthfully to the media Nadler considering holding Lewandowski in contempt Lewandowski, Democrats tangle at testy hearing MORE’ ouster. Whitaker has particularly been scrutinized for his past criticism of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerFox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network Mueller report fades from political conversation Trump calls for probe of Obama book deal MORE’s investigation, over which he has oversight now as the top Justice Department official.

Whitaker is likely to face a barrage of questions from Democrats on his oversight of the investigation as well as his communications with the White House.

In a five-page letter to Nadler Thursday in response to the subpoena threat, Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd noted Whitaker would not go into detail about his communications with President TrumpDonald John TrumpJimmy Carter: 'I hope there's an age limit' on presidency White House fires DHS general counsel: report Trump to cap California trip with visit to the border MORE during the hearing.