Whitaker takes grilling from House lawmakers

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker on Friday appeared before the House Judiciary Committee in one of the first blockbuster hearings with Democrats holding committee gavels.  

His public appearance followed a tussle with committee Democrats, who on Thursday voted to authorize a subpoena for his testimony — just in case he decided against showing up. 

Whitaker has been a controversial figure since President TrumpDonald TrumpHead of firms that pushed 'Italygate' theory falsely claimed VA mansion was her home: report Centrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting VA moving to cover gender affirmation surgery through department health care MORE first tapped him to helm the Justice Department following the ouster of Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsThe Hill's Morning Report - After high-stakes Biden-Putin summit, what now? Border state governors rebel against Biden's immigration chaos Garland strikes down Trump-era asylum decisions MORE. He has faced particular scrutiny as a result of his past criticisms of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE's Russia investigation. 

Whitaker, an ally of Trump, faced multiple lines of questions on his oversight of the Mueller investigation and his interactions with the White House.

Nadler gavels out of hearing

3:26 p.m.

Chairman Nadler stated that he expects Whitaker to provide a series of responses to unanswered questions, shortly before he gaveled out of the nearly six-hour long hearing.

The chairman said they intend to secure responses to the times and dates he was briefed on Mueller probe, communications he may have had with Trump after receiving those briefings, how he reached the assessment that Mueller probe is nearing its conclusion and whether he instructed Mueller to take any investigative steps.

The chairman also noted that he intends to bring him back for an interview on these matters, stating that he will use a subpoena if necessary.

— Olivia Beavers

Whitaker: I made recusal decision ‘not to bind my successors’

3:10 p.m.

Whitaker told lawmakers that after receiving advice from career officials at the Justice Department, he chose not to recuse himself from the Mueller investigation as “not to bind my successors.”

Rep. Madeleine DeanMadeleine DeanThe Hill's Morning Report - Dems to go-it-alone on infrastructure as bipartisan plan falters Democrats weigh next steps on Jan. 6 probe Pennsylvania Rep. Madeleine Dean won't run for Senate MORE (D-Pa.) asked Whitaker if he could confirm that ethics officials had told him to recuse himself from the probe to avoid even the appearance of a conflict or bias.

“They told me it was a close call, they said it could go either way,” Whitaker said.

“So to set the tone on a close call — you go the other way?” Dean asked.

“As the attorney general and not to bind my successors, yes, I believe on a close call as the attorney general of the United States that I made the right decision,” he said. “It was my decision to make.”

— Jacqueline Thomsen

Dem emotionally questions Whitaker on family separations 

2:30 p.m.

Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalOvernight Health Care: Biden touts 300 million vaccine doses in 150 days | Biden warns of 'potentially deadlier' delta variant | Public option fades with little outcry from progressives Overnight Energy: Lake Mead's decline points to scary water future in West | White House leads opposition to raising gas tax | Biden taps ex-New Mexico lawmaker for USDA post On The Money: Centrists gain leverage over progressives in Senate infrastructure battle | White House rules out gas tax hike MORE (D-Wash.) carried out a passionate questioning of Whitaker over the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) separation of migrant families at the border, asking him if he “understood the magnitude” of the policy.

“Our country is still reeling from the horror of family separations that occurred at the border,” Jayapal said at the opening her line of questioning.

She said that the DOJ had “imposed a zero-humanity policy” at the border for families trying to seek asylum, instead of offering them protections within the country.

“The truth is, we may not know how many children were separated from their parents,” she said.

The progressive lawmaker later pressed Whitaker over the tracking of migrant parents and children who had been separated at the border, asking if DOJ had been tracking the guardians separated from children as they were being prosecuted.

“So these parents were in your custody, your attorneys are prosecuting them, and your department was not tracking parents who were separated from their children,” Jayapal said.

“Do you know what kind of damage has been done to children and families across this country? Children who will never get to see their parents again?” she asked to a silent room.

“Do you understand the magnitude of that?”

“I understand that the policy of zero tolerance,” Whitaker began to say.

“Has the Justice Department started tracking parents and legal guardians who were separated from their children at the border?” Jayapal asked, cutting him off.

“I appreciate your passion for this issue, I know you’ve been very involved on the front lines,” the acting attorney general said.

“This is about more than my passion this," Jayapal fired back. "This is about the children's future, Mr. Whitaker."

— Jacqueline Thomsen

Demings grills Whitaker on Trump's criticisms of DOJ, FBI

2:30 p.m. 

Rep. Val DemingsValdez (Val) Venita DemingsIt's past time we elect a Black woman governor Demings raises million after announcing Senate bid against Rubio The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden mission abroad: reward friends, constrain adversaries MORE (D-Fla.) grilled Whitaker on whether he agrees with President Trump on his negative characterizations of the Justice Department, specifically referring to a September 2018 rally at which Trump pledged to get rid of the “lingering stench” at the department.

Whitaker, whom Trump tapped to helm the department in November, said he had “reestablished a positive relationship between the Department of Justice and the White House.”

When Demings, a former police chief, pressed him on whether he agreed with the president’s characterizations of the Justice Department and FBI, Whitaker answered that he has a “very high estimation” of the rank-and-file employees of the department.

“I have actually a very high estimation of the people at the Department of Justice,” Whitaker said.

“I feel very strongly that as the acting attorney general, I have to set the tone for the entire Department of Justice,” he added.

Whitaker never said directly whether he agreed or disagreed with Trump’s comments.

“That’s your answer?” Demings replied. “That’s pretty pitiful.”  

—Morgan Chalfant

Whitaker says he believes Mueller is honest, not conflicted

2:00 p.m.

Rep. Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellMo Brooks accuses Swalwell attorney who served papers on his wife of trespassing Senate on collision course over Trump DOJ subpoenas Democrats weigh next steps on Jan. 6 probe MORE (D-Calif.) asked Whitaker his personal opinions on Robert Mueller and if he would share those with the president.

Whitaker said that he “has no reason to believe [Mueller’s] not honest, so yes I believe he’s honest.”

And he also said that he believes that staff at the Justice Department are following regular order, and are therefore not conflicted.

“You believe he’s honest, you don’t believe he’s conflicted,” Swalwell said. “Can you say right now, ‘Mr. President I believe Bob Mueller is honest and not conflicted’?”

Whitaker repeatedly dodged making that exact statement.

“I am not here to be a puppet, to repeat terms and words that you say that I should say,” Whitaker said.

As Swalwell’s time for questioning expired, he prompted Whitaker to make the statement again, and Nadler allowed Whitaker time to answer Swalwell’s question.

“I don’t have anything further to add, I think I’ve answered the congressman’s question,” Whitaker said.

“That’s a question for observers,” Nadler replied.

— Jacqueline Thomsen

Collins to Swalwell: Stop 'running for president' 

1:55 p.m. 

The hearing became heated when Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsLoeffler meets with McConnell amid speculation of another Senate run Georgia agriculture commissioner launches Senate campaign against Warnock Poll shows tight GOP primary for Georgia governor MORE (R-Ga.) disagreed with a line of questioning by Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) and later suggested Swalwell should stop “running for president.”

Collins objected to Swalwell grilling Whitaker on whether an organization he ran prior to joining the Trump administration received contributions from foreign donors.  

“This is outside the scope of this hearing,” Collins said. “This is not when he was employed here.”

Swalwell shot back by suggesting Collins should “go sit down” with Whitaker’s lawyers if he wanted to defend him.

“Mr. Collins, if you want to sit down there with his lawyers, you can go sit down there,” Swalwell said. “But you’re not his lawyer.”

Collins replied by suggesting that Swalwell, who is rumored to be mulling a 2020 presidential run, should ask appropriate questions “instead of running for president.”

“Neither are you, Mr. Swalwell, and if you asked questions that are actually part of this instead of running for president we could get this done,” Collins countered.

Collins’s effort to stop Swalwell’s line of questioning failed, and Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) allowed the California representative to continue to press Whitaker on whether his prior organization — known as the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust — received contributions from foreign donors.

“I do not believe, as I sit here today, that it did,” Whitaker said. “Our main donor was a U.S. entity.”

— Morgan Chalfant

Whitaker disputes report that Trump 'lashed out' at him after Cohen guilty plea

1:40 p.m.

Rep. David CicillineDavid CicillineHillicon Valley: House targets tech giants with antitrust bills | Oversight chair presses JBS over payment to hackers | Trump spokesman to join tech company | YouTube suspends GOP senator House unveils antitrust package to rein in tech giants On the Money: Tech giants face rising pressure from shareholder activists | House Democrats urge IRS to reverse Trump-era rule reducing donor disclosure | Sen. Warren, Jamie Dimon spar over overdraft fees at Senate hearing MORE (D-R.I.) questioned Whitaker over a report that Trump had lashed out at the acting attorney general over charges federal prosecutors filed against the president’s ex-lawyer Michael Cohen.

Cicilline, referring to a December CNN report that Trump had blown up at Whitaker over investigations he oversaw as the head of DOJ, asked if the president had “lashed out” at Whitaker.

“The president specifically tweeted that he did not lash out,” Whitaker said.

“I don’t have a lot of confidence in the veracity of his tweets,” Cicilline replied.

Whitaker said the president had not “lashed out” at him.

The Democrat also asked if anyone had reached out to Whitaker on Trump’s behalf to share dissatisfaction with his work. 

Whitaker said no one had.

— Jacqueline Thomsen

Jeffries questions how Whitaker could become acting AG

1:30 p.m.

Rep. Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesDemocrats seek staffer salary boost to compete with K Street Congress tiptoes back to normality post-pandemic White House to Democrats: Get ready to go it alone on infrastructure MORE (D-N.Y.) voiced great confusion of how Matt WhitakerMatthew G WhitakerEx-federal prosecutor: 'Thank God' Whitaker is gone, Barr will bring 'integrity' back to DOJ GOP pollster says Dems are relitigating 2016 election with investigations of Trump Former senior FBI official calls Whitaker hearing ‘disgraceful’ MORE, who is seen as a President Trump loyalist, came to be acting attorney general.

"I'm confused. I really am. We're all trying to figure out who are you? Where did you come from?" asked Jeffries during his public hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on Friday.

"And how the heck did you become the head of the Department of Justice? Hopefully you can help me work through this confusion," continued Jeffries, who is seen as a potential future Speaker of the House.

When Whitaker began to respond, Jeffries promptly cut him off and chided: "That was a statement, not a question."

"I assume you know the difference," he added.

— Olivia Beavers

Dem lawmaker warns Whitaker to keep his ‘hands off’ Mueller probe

1:30 p.m.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) warned Whitaker not to interfere in Robert Mueller's investigation during his final days at the head of the Department of Justice.

"In your final week, keep your hands off the Mueller investigation," Jeffries told Whitaker emphatically, ending his line of questioning with a statement.

"The investigation into Russia's attack on our democracy is not a witch hunt. It's not a fishing expedition. It's not a hoax. It's not a lynch mob. It's a national security the fact that people suggest otherwise comes dangerously close to providing aid and comfort to the enemy," he added.

His statement during the hearing comes after he listed a series of former Trump aides who have pleaded guilty or been charged in the special counsel's probe.

"Manafort, Gates, Flynn, Cohen, Papadopoulos and Stone are all in deep trouble. One by one, all of the president's men are going down in flames," Jeffries said.

"It is often said where there is smoke, there's fire. There's a lot of smoke emanating from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. right now."

Jeffries also asked him about a tweet he had made in August 2017 in which he referenced an opinion piece that was titled "Note to Trump's lawyer, do not cooperate with Mueller's lynch mob."

"Do you recall that?" Jeffries asked.

"I did not necessarily agree with that position, but my point was that it was an interesting read for those that want to understand the situation," he responded.

— Olivia Beavers

Whitaker says no place for ‘white nationalism’ in civil society

1:20 p.m.

Whitaker said there is “no place” for hate, white supremacy or white nationalism in civil society when asked by Rep. Cedric RichmondCedric RichmondTrey Gowdy sets goal of avoiding ideological echo chamber with Fox News show The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden faces pressure amid infrastructure negotiations Buttigieg acknowledges 'daylight' between White House, GOP on infrastructure MORE (D-La.) if he believed there were “good people on both sides” in the 2017 violence in Charlottesville, Va.

“There is no place in a civil society for hate, or for white supremacy, or for white nationalism,” Whitaker said. He also noted that the suspect in the August 2017 car attack had been charged with hate crimes.

After a women died in the car attack while protesting a Charlottesville white supremacist rally, President Trump said there had been “very fine people” on “both sides.”

“You had some very bad people in that group," Trump told reporters at the time. “But you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.”

— Morgan Chalfant

Nadler, Collins spat over Dem's question

12:45 p.m.

Democratic Chairman Nadler and ranking member Collins briefly battled over a question posed by another Democratic lawmaker to Whitaker.

Rep. Karen BassKaren Ruth BassBlack Republican advocates his case for CBC membership Tim Scott: Could be 'very hard' to reach police reform deal by June deadline Police reform negotiations enter crucial stretch MORE (D-Calif.) was asking about Whitaker’s work before he joined the Department of Justice when Collins raised a point of order. He claimed that the question outside the scope of the hearing.

Nadler ruled that the point of order was not valid and said Bass could continue with her question.

“Are you just going to overrun a point of order?” Collins asked.

“I ruled that it was not a valid point of order,” Nadler replied.

“I was not through with my point of order,” Collins said, asking to appeal the ruling and resulting in a roll call vote.

The vote passed along party lines, with Democrats voting in favor to table the appeal.

That allowed Bass to continue her line of questioning.

— Jacqueline Thomsen

Whitaker defends his appointment to acting AG

12:46 p.m.

Whitaker defended himself against questions of why he was hired to serve as the acting attorney general, stating that he believes he had been chosen for "a couple reasons,” including his involvement in carrying out key administration priorities at the Justice Department while he worked as Jeff Sessions’s chief of staff.

"For 13 months, I was the chief of staff for Attorney General Sessions. I had done the full year with him side by side. Obviously he made the decisions, but I gave him advice and counsel, and I was aware of everything that was going on at the Department of Justice that obviously Attorney General Sessions wasn't recused from," Whitaker told Rep. Ted DeutchTheodore (Ted) Eliot DeutchWray grilled on FBI's handling of Jan. 6 Omar feuds with Jewish Democrats Shakespeare gets a congressional hearing in this year's 'Will on the Hill' MORE (D-Fla.), pointing to his experience as a U.S. attorney from Iowa. 

"I think the president was comfortable to continue the momentum at the Department of Justice we had established in addressing these important priority issues, like reducing violent crime, the opioid issue that he felt I was doing in the duties of attorney general," he added.

The remarks come after Democrats have repeatedly voiced concern about Whitaker's appointment to the interim role, stating that the administration bypassed the typically succession process in which Rosenstein would've taken the role and instead placed a Trump loyalist in that role.

— Olivia Beavers

Whitaker says Mueller complying with ‘all the regulations’

12:35 p.m.

Whitaker told Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanHillicon Valley: Biden, Putin agree to begin work on addressing cybersecurity concerns | Senate panel unanimously advances key Biden cyber nominees | Rick Scott threatens to delay national security nominees until Biden visits border Trump, allies pressured DOJ to back election claims, documents show The tale of the last bipartisan unicorns MORE (R-Ohio) that Mueller’s special counsel investigation is complying with “all the regulations” when questioned about the scope of the probe and any changes to it.  

Jordan asked Whitaker if there had been changes to the parameters of the investigation since Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinHouse Judiciary to probe DOJ's seizure of data from lawmakers, journalists The Hill's Morning Report - Biden-Putin meeting to dominate the week Media leaders to meet with Garland to discuss leak investigations MORE appointed Mueller in May 2017 to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election, and any criminal activity that came to light as a result of that probe.

Jordan pointed to an August 2017 memo written by Rosenstein authorizing Mueller to investigate potential collusion by former Trump campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortLegal intrigue swirls over ex-Trump exec Weisselberg: Five key points There was Trump-Russia collusion — and Trump pardoned the colluder Treasury: Manafort associate passed 'sensitive' campaign data to Russian intelligence MORE, suggesting that had amounted to a change in the scope of the probe.

Jordan asked if there had been "any other modifications."

“The special counsel understands the scope of its investigation and is complying with all the regulations and orders related to that,” Whitaker replied. 

—Morgan Chalfant

Whitaker: DOJ said recusal decision was 'mine to make'

12:30 p.m.

Whitaker testified that career Department of Justice (DOJ) officials told him that his choice to not recuse himself from the Mueller probe was “his decision to make.”

Rep. Hank JohnsonHenry (Hank) C. JohnsonBlack Democrats press leaders for reparations vote this month Bottom line Schumer waiting for recommendation on Supreme Court expansion MORE (D-Ga.) asked Whitaker whom he had consulted with during the decision-making process, and if they had advised him not to recuse himself.

Whitaker said that he had spoken with his senior staff as well as career ethics officials and the Office of Legal Counsel.

He said that one of the individuals he spoke with was Brad Weinsheimer, the senior career official at DOJ

“[Weinsheimer] actually could not identify any precedent for me to recuse,” Whitaker said. “He said it was a close call, he said that my other public statements did recognizer the professionalism and competence of the special counsel.”

“He said that out of an abundance of caution that if asked he would recommend a certain course,” Whitaker continued. “He also said the decision was mine to make.”

— Jacqueline Thomsen

Whitaker declines to say whether Mueller probe is a ‘witch hunt’

12:20 p.m.

Whitaker declined to answer if he believes that the Mueller investigation is a “witch hunt,” as the president has repeatedly claimed. 

Rep. Steve CohenStephen (Steve) Ira CohenWray grilled on FBI's handling of Jan. 6 Viola Fletcher, oldest living survivor of Tulsa Race Massacre, testifies in Congress 'seeking justice' Lobbying world MORE (D-Tenn.) cited the several guilty pleas and indictments that have resulted as part of the special counsel’s probe in asking his question.

“Would you say the special counsel’s investigation is a witch hunt? Are you overseeing a witch hunt?”

“The special counsel’s investigation is an ongoing investigation so I think it would be inappropriate for me to comment,” Whitaker replied.

“You wouldn’t oversee a witch hunt, would you? You’d stop a witch hunt, wouldn’t you?” Cohen pressed.

“It would be inappropriate for me to talk about an ongoing investigation,” Whitaker said.

— Jacqueline Thomsen

Jordan presses Whitaker on redacted details in Mueller scope memo

12:16 p.m.

Rep. Jim Jordan, the ranking member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, pressed Whitaker on specifics about a memo on the scope of Mueller's investigation.

Jordan specifically was trying to determine whether the memo specifically names U.S. citizens as being potentially under  potential investigation.

"Are there names under the redactions, Mr. Whitaker?" Jordan asked.

The acting attorney general, however, dodged answering the questions, stating that the probe is "ongoing."

"I would just refer the congressman to the general practices of the department of justice that we investigate crimes and not individuals," he said in response.

— Olivia Beavers

Democrat to acting AG: 'We are not joking here'

12:10 p.m.

Rep. Sheila Jackson LeeSheila Jackson LeeRon Johnson booed at Juneteenth celebration in Wisconsin Black lawmakers warn against complacency after Juneteenth victory 40-year march: Only one state doesn't recognize Juneteenth MORE (D-Texas) chided Whitaker, accusing him of behaving in an unacceptable manor during a confrontational House Judiciary Committee hearing Friday.  

“Mr. Attorney General, we are not joking here,” Jackson Lee said. “And your humor is not acceptable.”

The tense exchange came as the congresswoman asked Whitaker a series of yes-or-no questions about his role at the Justice Department and oversight of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Members often asked yes-or-no questions during oversight hearings in order to cycle through more inquiries within the five-minute time limit they have.

At one point, Jackson Lee was interrupted and asked for her time to be restored.

“Can the clock be restored?” Jackson Lee asked.

Whitaker quipped in response, “I don’t know if your time has been restored or not.”

Jackson Lee then chastised Whitaker for his humor and said he was there “because we have a constitutional duty to ask questions and the Congress has the right to establish government rules.”

“The rules are that you are here, so I need to ask the question and I need to have the time restored so that you can behave appropriately, I can behave appropriately of the Judiciary Committee,” Jackson Lee said.

The congresswoman went on to pepper Whitaker with a series of yes-or-no questions, many of which he declined to answer outright.

Whitaker’s appearance before the House Judiciary Committee Friday morning was his first time appearing before Congress. 

Whitaker faced several questions on his oversight and past statements about Mueller’s investigation, as well as his interactions with President Trump and other White House officials.

In several instances, Whitaker declined to answer questions about the Mueller investigation, noting that the probe is ongoing and that speaking about it would be inappropriate as a result. 

Whitaker has emerged as a controversial figure since Trump tapped him to helm the Justice Department last November after Jeff Sessions's ouster as attorney general. Whitaker has specifically been scrutinized for critical statements he made about Mueller's investigation before joining the department. 

Whitaker testified repeatedly Friday that he has not "interfered" in Mueller's probe — something that Democrats and other Trump critics have raised concerns about. 

— Morgan Chalfant

Whitaker says he didn't talk Mueller probe views before DOJ hiring 

11:50 a.m.

Whitaker said that he didn’t discuss his personal views about the Mueller probe before he was hired as chief of staff to former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

In a back-and-forth with Rep. Zoe LofgrenZoe Ellen LofgrenPelosi floats Democrat-led investigation of Jan. 6 as commission alternative Democrats plot next move after GOP sinks Jan. 6 probe This week: House to vote on Jan. 6 Capitol attack commission MORE (D-Calif.), the lawmaker pressed Whitaker over whether he had shared his thoughts about the Mueller investigation prior to his arrival at the Justice Department in 2017 with anyone at the White House, including Trump, Trump family members and surrogates for the president like his attorney Rudy Giuliani.

Whitaker initially did not directly answer the question, but said that he did not make any promises or commitments to the White House about the special counsel’s probe or any other investigation.

Lofgren, noting that her time was almost expired, asked that she be given the chance to ask the question again during a deposition that Nadler said he would hold for Whitaker at a later date.

Nadler said he would allow Lofgren to ask the question again despite her time elapsing.

“And I will ask the witness to answer the question specifically, and not continue filibustering,” he added.

Whitaker then said that he did not discuss his views on the Mueller probe with any White House officials prior to his hiring.

The officials' prior comments disparaging the special counsel appointment sparked concern among Democrats, who feared he could shutter the probe.

— Jacqueline Thomsen

Hearing reconvenes after votes

11:43 a.m.

The hearing reconvened after lawmakers returned from a drawn-out vote series.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) kicked off the questioning by asking Whitaker about his remarks in late January when he said that Mueller's investigation is close to being done. 

— Olivia Beavers

Hearing breaks briefly for votes

10:26 a.m.

The committee adjourned briefly about an hour into the hearing so House members could vote.

It is expected to resume sometime after 10:40 a.m.

— Morgan Chalfant

Collins presses Whitaker over Bruce Ohr

10:24 a.m.

Collins, the Republican ranking member of the committee, questioned Whitaker about Justice Department staffer Bruce Ohr, who has faced scrutiny from GOP lawmakers because of his ties to the controversial so-called Steele dossier.

Whitaker confirmed that Ohr continues to work for the Justice Department, but did not provide specifics on his current role.

He said he was “generally aware of Ohr” and the “questions being raised about his behavior at the Department of Justice.”

The acting official said that the Carter Page FISA application, which made reference to the Steele dossier, is currently being looked at by the Department of Justice’s Office of Inspector General and U.S. Attorney James Huber, who is examining conservative allegations of surveillance abuse at the FBI and the Justice Department.

Whitaker said that those matters are “part of a confidential human resources process” and that he could not comment further.

Conservatives have set their sights on Ohr in recent months over his communications with the opposition research firm Fusion GPS and former British spy Christopher Steele.

Steele wrote a controversial dossier making unverified allegations about the Trump campaign's ties to Moscow.

— Jacqueline Thomsen

Whitaker tells Judiciary chair his 'five minutes is up' amid questioning about Mueller probe

10:21 a.m.

Whitaker received gasps of astonishment when he told the head of the House Judiciary Committee that his time was up amid questioning about special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

"Mr. Chairman, I see that your five minutes is up," Whitaker said during the questioning of Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.).

"I am here voluntarily. We have agreed to five-minute rounds," he added.

Nadler appeared to start laughing to himself at what was a breach of protocol for a witness testifying before a congressional panel, as the ranking member of the committee said it would be a good time for a break in the proceedings. 

Lawmakers routinely go over their five minute time limits for questioning, and it is normally up to the chair to limit the proceedings. 

It is very unusual for a witness to mention the time limit, and even more so for a witness to accuse a panel's chairman of going over.

Whitaker's remark came after Nadler, the first to question the acting attorney general, asked whether he has had a role in approving any "request or action to be taken by the special counsel."

— Olivia Beavers

Nadler asks Whitaker to sit for transcribed interview

10:20 a.m.

Chairman Nadler signaled that the Friday hearing would not be Whitaker’s last appearance before the committee. He said the panel would ask Whitaker to appear for a transcribed interview after Whitaker declined to answer several questions.

“You cannot repeat forever that the president might want to assert privilege,” Nadler said.

“I do not believe that issuing a subpoena here would correct the problem, but I am going to give you the opportunity to rectify the situation. After today’s hearing, we will attempt to reach an accommodation with the department to obtain answers to these questions,” he added.

“As part of that process, I ask for your commitment to return for a deposition before this committee in the coming weeks – under oath, with an understanding that the transcript will be released to the public as soon as practicable thereafter.”

Whitaker did not, however, give him a yes or no answer.

 — Morgan Chalfant

Whitaker says he hasn’t interfered in Mueller probe

10:13 a.m.

Under questioning from Chairman Nadler, Whitaker insisted he had not taken steps to impeded Mueller’s investigation.

“I have not interfered in any way with the special counsel’s investigation,” Whitaker said.

Critics of President Trump have raised concerns about Whitaker’s past statements criticizing Mueller’s investigation before he was brought on at the Department of Justice. 

 — Morgan Chalfant

Whitaker says he hasn't discussed Mueller with Trump

10:10 a.m. 

Whitaker said that he has not discussed the special counsel investigation with President Trump or any other senior officials in the White House.

The acting attorney general told the House Judiciary Committee that he has “not talked to the president” about Robert Mueller’s probe.

“I have not talked about the special counsel investigation with senior White House officials,” Whitaker said.

He said that he has "followed the special counsel regulations to a T" since he began to lead the department and that he has "not interfered in any way with the special counsel’s investigation."

— Jacqueline Thomsen

Whitaker mum on Mueller probe

10:05 a.m.

Whitaker signaled early on Friday that he would not say anything about what he knows regarding special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Whitaker told reporters at a press conference last month that he had been “fully briefed” on the Mueller probe and that he believed it is “close” to completion.

Nadler repeatedly asked Whitaker about the nature and number of briefings he has received, but he declined to answer, saying it would be inappropriate.

“I cannot talk about ongoing investigations,” Whitaker said.

“I have said all that I am planning on saying about the number of times or the briefings I have received on the special counsel’s investigation,” Whitaker said. “I think it would be very improper of me.”

 — Morgan Chalfant

Whitaker honors Dingell in opening remarks 

9:56 a.m.  

The acting attorney general began his opening remarks roughly a half-hour into the hearing, beginning by acknowledging the death of former Rep. John DingellJohn DingellRep. Dingell hospitalized for surgery on perforated ulcer Races heat up for House leadership posts Democrats flubbed opportunity to capitalize on postal delays MORE, a former chairman of the Judiciary Committee who passed away Thursday. 

“He was a statesman and a leader,” Whitaker said. “And it is a sad day in this committee, I am sure.” 

 — Morgan Chalfant

Collins attempts to end hearing

9:50 a.m.

Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), the ranking member of the committee, requested a roll call vote to adjourn the hearing, requiring that each member of the committee say whether they would agree to do so.

That vote failed along party lines, with all 24 Democrats on the committee opposing the measure.

Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) said that he was voting to continue with the hearing "so we may continue to pursue the truth."

— Jacqueline Thomsen 

Top Republican accuses Dems of ‘political theater’

9:45 a.m. 

Collins blasted Democrats for what he labeled “political theater” in voting to authorize the subpoena for Whitaker’s appearance on Thursday.

He also accused Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) of misleading the press by announcing Thursday on Twitter that Whitaker would appear before the committee without disclosing the letter he sent to the Justice Department late that evening saying there would not be a subpoena.

After the committee voted to authorize the subpoena — which they said was necessary in the case Whitaker declined to appear — he said he would not show up until the committee withdrew the threat.

“There will be no subpoena tomorrow, and any differences we have we will work on later,” Collins quoted the letter as saying. 

Collins described it as a “full cave by the committee chairman.”

“Everything we did earlier in the day was a complete waste of time,” Collins said.

Collins also accused Democrats of scheduling the hearing in order to engage in a “character assassination” of the acting attorney general.

“That this is nothing more than a character assassination,” Collins said.

“This hearing is pointless,” he said. “This is not about what the good men and women at the Department of Justice is doing.” 

— Morgan Chalfant 

Nadler raises concerns about Whitaker's decision not to recuse himself from probe

9:35 a.m.

Nadler in his opening remarks raised concerns about Whitaker's decision not to recuse himself from the special counsel probe, pointing to the recommendation of ethics officials.

Nadler cited the text of a letter the Department of Justice (DOJ) sent to the panel in December, which said ethics officials concluded that they would give the recommendation, if sought, for Whitaker to recuse himself from the probe "because it was their view that a reasonable person with knowledge of the relevant facts likely would question the impartiality of the acting attorney general."

"In other words, even though you apparently did not ask for their advice on this topic, these career officials went out of their way to tell you that your many public past criticisms of the special counsel’s investigation were grounds for you to step aside," Nadler said.

"You decided that your private interest in overseeing this particular investigation — and perhaps others from which you should have been recused — as more important than the integrity of the Department. The question that this committee must ask now is: Why?"

He also raised concern about Whitaker's public appearances before he took the interim role as the DOJ's top cop.

"Those media appearances have become cause of much concern," he said, pointing to how Whitaker had previously said the Mueller probe was going "too far."

"Why did President Trump choose to replace Attorney General Sessions with an outspoken critic of the special counsel, instead of with any number of qualified individuals who had already received Senate confirmation?" Nadler said.

— Olivia Beavers 

Nadler gavels in the hearing

9:30 a.m.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) gaveled into the hearing shortly after Whitaker was seated.

Nadler started off the hearing by honoring Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), the longest-serving member of Congress, who died on Thursday.

— Olivia Beavers 

Whitaker indicates he will assert executive privilege if asked about Trump conversations

9:25 a.m.

In a copy of his opening remarks, Whitaker indicates he plans to assert executive privilege if lawmakers on the Judiciary Committee seek to ask him about conversations he has had with President Trump.  

“I want to assure you that I will seek to answer the Committee’s questions today, as best as I can, but I also must make clear that I will continue the longstanding Executive Branch policy and practice of not disclosing information that may be subject to executive privilege, such as the contents of deliberations or conversations with the President,” Whitaker writes.

The response, though within his rights, is likely to frustrate Democrats, who are eager to press Whitaker on whether he has briefed the president on the Mueller investigation.

— Olivia Beavers

Whitaker says there will be ‘no change’ in management of Mueller probe

9:22 a.m.

In his prepared opening, Whitaker sought to dispel questions of whether he has sought to inappropriately influence the special counsel’s investigation.

“There has been no change in the overall management of the Special Counsel investigation,” Whitaker wrote in his opening remarks. 

“I have and will continue to manage this investigation in a manner that is consistent with the governing regulations,” he said. 

His remarks hit at the heart of what Democrats plan to press the acting attorney general on, and his opening remarks will likely not prevent a series of Democrats from raising the matter.

— Olivia Beavers