House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Doug Collins (R-Ga.) (shown above right) bashed his Democratic colleagues on Friday for trying to undermine acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker (above left).
President Donald Trump selected Whitaker to be acting attorney general before nominating a permanent replacement.
Whitaker appeared for the hearing to discuss agency oversight of the Department of Justice. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) opened up the discussion by noting concerns about why the president picked him — and why he didn’t recuse himself from the special counsel probe.
Collins, in his opening statements, then accused the hearing of being misleading and an attack against the president.
He noted the committee and the acting attorney general were working out conditions in which he would agree to appear. Whitaker then agreed to appear late Thursday if no subpoenas were issued.
But a tweet announcing the deal appeared to show a different story.
“What was worse about this, last night the chairman’s Twitter account said the acting attorney general was going to show up today,” Collins said. “But we’re going to put this in the record now — the letter to the attorney general, which said there will be no subpoenas and that any differences we have will be worked out later.”
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Whitaker has been scrutinized ever since his selection as acting attorney general because of the ongoing special counsel investigation against the president.
Democrats have expressed concern over why Trump would pick someone who has publicly expressed opposition to the investigation. He also has not recused himself from the special counsel probe.
CONFIRMED: Acting Attorney General Whitaker will appear tomorrow morning at 9:30am. https://t.co/dIuVOJt1G9
— (((Rep. Nadler))) (@RepJerryNadler) February 8, 2019
“We decided to put out a tweet to the world that many in the media picked up on and ran stories today saying the reason the Judiciary chairman wins and the acting attorney general is coming and he doesn’t have assurances,” Collins said. “No, he does right here. There’s going to be no subpoena today. So when we talk about transparency, which was so evident yesterday, now we get to the real meat of the issue.”
Collins also pointed out that the hearing itself is pointless, since Whitaker is likely to be gone, too.
Former Attorney General William Barr is working his way through a confirmation process to retake the role. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved him on Thursday morning with a 12-10 vote along party lines.
“It is also amazing to me, as I said yesterday, when you come here and out an issue of this hearing, Bill Barr was approved out of the Senate Judiciary Committee,” Collins said. “By next Thursday, he will be the attorney general. This gentleman right here is finishing up his term as acting attorney general, he was willing to come, and yet we had this charade yesterday.”
Former FBI Director Robert Mueller has been leading the special counsel investigation since it was launched in May 2017. His team has been looking into possible crimes committed by the president or his associates, with a particular focus on whether they colluded with Russian interests during the presidential election of 2016.
“This hearing is pointless and it was made even more pointless by the chairman’s opening statement,” Collins went on. “This isn’t about [the] good [that the] men and women at the Department of Justice are doing. This isn’t about FBI agents who are doing their jobs. It could be about the FBI agents our side knows hasn’t done their jobs, and we’ll probably hear about that today.”
Collins also criticized the fact that the scope of the hearing goes well beyond agency oversight. He pointed to committee members asking about Whitaker’s financial records from 2014.
“This is not a confirmation hearing,” Collins said. “This is a Department of Justice oversight hearing, supposedly. Actually — back to theatrics again — the curtain opened up and we found out what’s really going on: ‘We want to damage the president. We walk to talk about your private conversations’ — and, the most amazing quote from a moment ago — ‘we want to know why the president put you there.’ That’s offensive.”
Trump has dubbed the special counsel probe the single greatest “witch hunt” in the country’s history. The president also accused Mueller of having conflicts of interests, given his close association with people like former FBI Director James Comey.
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and other Republicans have accused agents that were part of the special counsel team of bias against the president as well.
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