WASHINGTON — The bickering started even before Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker appeared before Congress on Friday.
Things only got worse during his all-day hearing before the House Judiciary Committee.
From yelling to calls to end the hearing, Whitaker’s appearance gave Americans a front-row seat to the fraught relationship between the Trump administration and the new Democratic majority in the House.
Here are six heated moments that set the tone for the hearing and might give an indication of where the White House’s relationship with a divided Congress might be headed:
For much of Thursday, it wasn’t clear whether Whitaker would show up to the hearing on Friday.
Much of the uncertainty revolved around a subpoena threat from committee chairman Nadler. He was authorized on Thursday to serve a subpoena on Whitaker if he declined to answer lawmakers’ questions during the hearing, including over those pertaining to his conversations with the president.
The Justice Department responded that Whitaker would appear only if the subpoena threat was withdrawn.
After talks throughout the day, Nadler agreed to withdraw the subpoena threat for the time being and Whitaker, in turn, said he would testify before lawmakers.
But, Nadler kept the door open for other hearings and scrutiny, even ending the hearing saying the committee would call back Whitaker, under subpoena if necessary, for a closed-door interview to get “more fulsome” answers to questions.
“Your failure to respond fully to our questions here today in no way limits the ability of this committee to get answers in the long run, even if you are a private citizen when we finally learn the truth,” Nadler said.
Calling to end the hearing before it even began
Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., the panel’s ranking Republican, opened up the hearing by calling it an “exercise in character assassination.”
“This is not about what the good men and women at the Justice Department are doing,” Collins said, waving off the opening statement given by Democratic Rep. Jerold Nadler, the committee chairman. “No, we want to damage the president. That’s offensive!”
Collins accused the Democrats of playing a hide-and-seek game by threatening to subpoena Whitaker.
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