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Whitaker Stuns Committee by Telling Judiciary Chairman ‘Your Five Minutes Is Up’

Whitaker Stuns Committee by Telling Judiciary Chairman ‘Your Five Minutes Is Up’

"If I worked for you, Mr. Whitaker, and you thought I was highly principled and that was your answer ... when you're asked about how do you view the people who work for you?"

Whitaker's appearance had been thrown into uncertainty after House Democrats threatened to subpoena his testimony about the special counsel's Russian Federation investigation.

Whitaker is the first top Trump administration official to testify before Congress since Democrats won control of the House in the November midterm elections.

Friday's hearing nearly didn't happen after Whitaker said Thursday he would not attend if the Democrat-led committee forced him to do so. Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries later railed at Whitaker.

When asked why he didn't recuse himself from the investigation, Whitaker said a senior Department of Justice official told him it was a "close call", but ultimately the decision was his to make.

"[Democrats] are going so far to the left, so radical, so rude that I think the American public is gonna wake up", she said.

Whitaker's time as acting attorney general will likely be coming to an end soon. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein oversaw the investigation until Whitaker was appointed after Sessions's resignation. On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to recommend the confirmation of President Trump's permanent successor to Sessions: William Barr, who previously served as George H.W. Bush's attorney general in the early 1990s.

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"In your final week, keep your hands off the Mueller investigation", House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) warned. But Whitaker fired back, saying through a letter from the Justice Department that he would not testify at all if the committee issued a subpoena. Collins said. "The key difference today is simply that this witness is part of the Trump Administration - and now we're setting a unsafe precedent". That referred to the time limits for questions - one normally addressed by lawmakers, not witnesses.

Later, Collins questioned Whitaker about the indictment of Trump's long-time friend Roger Stone, including how CNN had a reporter in front of Stone's house when he was arrested.

Whitaker agreed to testify at the hearing where Democrats' questioning largely focused on his oversight of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

Whitaker also denied a news report that Trump had lashed out at him after the guilty plea of Michael Cohen, the president's former lawyer. The rules are that you are here, so I need to ask the question and I need to have my time restored so that you can behave appropriately.

Democrats said they would inquire about Whitaker's past business dealings, too.

"Mr. Chairman, I see that your five minutes is up, so I am...", said Whitaker, as there were groans through the hearing room.