Whitaker, even while expressing exasperation at the questioning of Democrats, nonetheless sought to assuage their concerns by saying he had never discussed with Trump or other White House officials special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into potential coordination between Russian Federation and the Trump campaign.
It was the culmination of a day that began when the House panel voted to authorize a subpoena of Whitaker because its Democratic members want to ask him about his conversations with President Donald Trump and his oversight of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.
Acting attorney general Matthew G. Whitaker is scheduled to appear Friday morning before the House Judiciary Committee - a high-stakes confrontation that was almost canceled a day earlier in a standoff with Democratic lawmakers.
When Whitaker seemingly tried to joke about timing with another Democratic committee member, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, she was having none of it. "Mr. Attorney General, we're not joking here, and your humor is not acceptable", she said.
"I consulted with career ethics officials, I consulted my senior staff, I consulted with the office of legal counsel - it was my decision to make, I decided not to recuse", he explained. Despite previously telling reporters that Mueller's investigation was "close to being completed," Whitaker said he could not answer questions about ongoing investigations.
Whitaker has been undertaking significant preparations ahead of the hearing, including conducting briefings with every DOJ component and participating in several mock hearings, according to the officials.
The hearing quickly turned contentious before Whitaker even had a chance to speak. And I took notes on what we learned (or re-learned) from what Whitaker said (and didn't).
Whitaker's testimony Friday was in limbo after the House Judiciary Committee approved a tentative subpoena to ensure he appeared. "I'm here voluntarily. I agreed to five-minute rounds".
"Answer the question please", Nadler replied.
Although Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is understood to have continued overseeing the investigation after President Trump elevated Whitaker, the acting attorney general said last month he's been "fully briefed" on Mueller's work and that he expected it to conclude soon.
"The time for this administration to postpone accountability is over", Nadler said. "The department's failure to do its due diligence to me is deeply troubling", he said.
"He will come back, because we will use a subpoena if we have to", he said.
"In your capacity as acting attorney general, have you ever been asked to approve any request or action to be taken by the special counsel?" asked Nadler. "Answer the question, please". The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday voted, along party lines, to advance Barr's nomination to the full Senate for confirmation.
It also followed a Thursday threat from Whitaker to not appear amid reports that Democrats were considering issuing a subpoena to compel him to answer particular questions.
Late Thursday, there was considerable doubt about Whitaker's appearance.
Whitaker: I have no reason to believe he's not honest, so, yes, I do believe he's honest.
"Any questions unanswered today [that] require consultation with the White House, will be asked again ... and I expect either a clean answer or a proper assertion of privilege claimed by the president", Nadler said.