Lawmakers have reached a deal with acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker for him to publicly testify before Congress next month, the head of the House Judiciary Committee announced Tuesday.
The high-profile visit from Whitaker will take place on Feb. 8, regardless of whether the partial government shutdown is still going, according to a letter Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) sent to Whitaker.
"Thank you for continuing to work with us to find a time for you to testify before the House Committee on the Judiciary," Nadler wrote.
"As we have discussed and I have informed your staff, I expect you to appear on February 8 whether or not the current lapse in appropriations has been resolved, and whether or not the Senate has confirmed a new Attorney General," he added.
The Judiciary chairman advised Whitaker to consult with the White House in advance of the hearing on whether he plans to "invoke executive privilege in an attempt to avoid answering any particular question."
Nadler told the Trump administration official that lawmakers on the panel expect him to provide direct answers to their questions at the hearing.
His scheduled appearance falls slightly later than the timeline Democrats had initially suggested late last year, when they announced Whitaker would testify in January.
News of his expected appearance on Capitol Hill comes on the same day the Senate Judiciary Committee kicked off its two-day hearing with William Barr, President Trump's pick to serve as his next attorney general.
Whitaker 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.
Whitaker, in particular, has faced immense scrutiny for his earlier remarks that criticized 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 investigation and his unconventional rise to the top of the Justice Department following Trump's ouster of Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsOvernight Hillicon Valley — Apple issues security update against spyware vulnerability Stanford professors ask DOJ to stop looking for Chinese spies at universities in US Overnight Energy & Environment — Democrats detail clean electricity program MORE in November.
The acting attorney general has faced 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.
Whitaker, a former U.S. attorney from Iowa, wrote opinion pieces for CNN and The Hill in 2017 in which he advocated for curbing the scope of the special counsel investigation and also mused about how an attorney general could stifle the probe's funding. Those comments were all made before he entered a senior role at the Justice Department as Sessions's chief of staff.
While Whitaker has reportedly assured associates that he will not take action to hinder the Mueller probe or reduce its funding, he has also shrugged off the advice of Justice Department ethics lawyers to recuse himself from overseeing the probe, according to reports.
Earlier in December, amid ongoing scrutiny of Whitaker, Trump announced that he was tapping Barr to permanently serve as the nation's next top cop.