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Acting Attorney General Whitaker agrees to appear before House committee

Whitaker's appearance will come just one day after Trump's former attorney, Michael Cohen, testifies to the House Oversight Committee.
Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker speaks at the Justice Department in Washington on Nov. 15, 2018.
Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker speaks at the Justice Department in Washington on Nov. 15, 2018.Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP file

WASHINGTON — Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker has agreed to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on Feb. 8 in what will be the interim Justice Department chief’s first interaction with the Democrat-led panel, Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) announced Tuesday.

Whitaker’s appearance will follow just 24 hours after the much-anticipated public hearing in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee with Michael Cohen, the president’s former lawyer and fixer.

The agreement for Whitaker to appear for a general oversight hearing ends weeks of back-and-forth between House Democrats and the Justice Department over the proposed testimony.

Last week Nadler threatened to subpoena Whitaker if he did not agree to appear by Jan. 29, the date of President Trump’s State of the Union address. Whitaker had initially agreed to voluntarily testify before the panel during a phone conversation with Nadler in November, but more recently cited the partial government shutdown in proposing to appear no earlier than mid-February.

On Tuesday the Senate Judiciary Committee began the confirmation hearing for William Barr, Trump’s nominee to replace Jeff Sessions in the top DOJ post and the Senate is not expected to be finished with the confirmation process by the date Whitaker is scheduled to appear. In a letter to Whitaker, Nadler wrote, “I expect you to appear on February 8 whether or not the current lapse in appropriations has been resolved, and whether or not the Senate has confirmed a new Attorney General.”

Whitaker, who had served as Sessions’ chief of staff, was named acting AG after Sessions resigned under pressure the day after the midterm elections.

Nadler has said his committee wanted to ask Whitaker about a range of issues, including voting rights, immigration policy, and the Department’s decision not to defend the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. But the hearing is likely to be dominated by questions about the special counsel probe into the Trump campaign’s potential involvement in Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.