Acting Attorney General Whitaker says House panel must drop subpoena threat

The House Judiciary Committee approved a tentative subpoena for Whitaker to ensure he appears at the hearing Friday.
Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker attends the annual Veterans Appreciation Day ceremony
Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker attends the annual Veterans Appreciation Day ceremony at the Justice Department in Washington on Nov. 15, 2018.Michael Reynolds / EPA

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By Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Acting Attorney general Matthew Whitaker says he won't appear before a House committee unless the panel drops its threat of subpoenaing him.

Whitaker said in a statement Thursday that the House Judiciary Committee is trying "to create a public spectacle" by authorizing a tentative subpoena for his testimony even though he had already agreed to appear voluntarily.

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Whitaker is scheduled to testify Friday.

He is likely in his final days on the job given that the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday approved the nomination of William Barr as acting attorney general. That nomination next goes to the full Senate.

The House Judiciary Committee approved a tentative subpoena for Whitaker to ensure he appears at the hearing Friday.

The vote doesn't issue a subpoena to Whitaker but allows House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler to do so if Whitaker is uncooperative.

Nadler said he hopes not to have to use the subpoena, but "a series of troubling events" suggested it should be prepared. He said the committee had received reports that some at the department were counseling Whitaker not to appear.

Democrats want to talk to Whitaker because he is a close ally of President Donald Trump and has criticized special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.

Republicans said the vote was unnecessary because Whitaker has agreed to appear voluntarily.