Background, After a tense back-and-forth between congressional Democrats and the Justice Department, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler and the DOJ announced Thursday evening that Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, likely in his final days as the country’s chief law enforcement officer, will appear Friday as scheduled before the panel.
House Democrats had threatened to subpoena Whitaker’s testimony about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, and in response, Whitaker — who previously had agreed to testify — warned that he wouldn’t show up unless lawmakers dropped the ultimatum he described as “political theater.”
In a letter to Whitaker on Thursday, Nadler, D-N.Y., wrote, “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.”
He continued: “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.” Although it appeared possible that those statements might have fallen short of the assurances Whitaker was seeking, Nadler wrote on Twitter late Thursday that Nadler would, indeed, make an appearance at 9:30 a.m. ET. But in a bizarre twist, Fox News has obtained a separate letter that Nadler sent to Whitaker earlier in the day, which explicitly states that Whitaker can testify without a subpoena and that there is “no need” for a subpoena.
While the committee’s GOP majority was copied on the letter, Fox News is told Republicans never actually received it. The DOJ later said in a statement: “The Chairman has made the commitment that we requested, and agreed that, if Mr. Whitaker voluntarily appears at tomorrow’s hearing, the Committee will not issue a subpoena on or before February 8. In light of that commitment, Acting Attorney General Whitaker looks forward to voluntarily appearing at tomorrow’s hearing and discussing the great work of the Department of Justice.”
So today at the hearing. Whitaker returned the favor, and apparently ‘won’ the battle.