Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, who previously said that he wouldn’t testify before the House Judiciary Committee unless Democrats on the panel withdrew the threat of subpoenaing him, has confirmed he will speak before the panel on Friday.
In a statement Thursday, he maintained that Democratic members of the committee had “deviated from historic practice and protocol and taken the unnecessary and premature step of authorizing a subpoena to the me [sic], the acting attorney general, even though I had agreed to voluntarily appear.”
Whitaker added that the move breached their “prior agreement and circumvents the constitutionally required accommodation process.” He further accused the panel of intending to only create a public spectacle or as he called it “political theater.”
“Consistent with longstanding practice, I remain willing to appear to testify tomorrow, provided that the Chairman assures me that the Committee will not issue a subpoena today or tomorrow and that the Committee will engage in good faith negotiations before taking such a step down the road,” he continued.
The Justice Department confirmed he would appear before the committee, adding that he looks forward to testifying voluntarily “and discussing the great work of the Department of Justice.”
Democrats had said that should Whitaker refuse to appear or answer some questions, they would issue a subpoena against him compelling him to do go. The move was criticized by Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd, who said in a statement that the committee intended to ask Whitaker questions pertaining to “confidential presidential communications,” which is almost never expected of attorneys general to disclose.
In a letter sent to the committee, the Justice Department also outlined questions the acting attorney general would be willing to answer and gave the panel until 6 p.m. Thursday to provide a written assurance that they would not subpoena Whitaker.
“The Acting Attorney General will testify that at no time did the White House ask for, or did the Acting Attorney General provide, any promises or commitments concerning the Special Counsel’s investigation,” Boyd wrote, according to CNN.
Democrats voted earlier Thursday along party lines to give Chairman Jerry Nadler the authority to subpoena Whitaker despite Republican objections.
Nadler said that authorizing a subpoena for Whitaker was necessary because the attorney general failed to tell the committee whether the Trump administration would invoke privilege regarding a number of questions they intend to ask about Whitaker’s conversations with the White House about the special counsel’s probe and his decision not to recuse himself from the matter.