Acting AG Whitaker to testify as Democrats ramp up oversight

Acting AG Whitaker to testify as Democrats ramp up oversight
Acting U.S. Attorney General Matt Whitaker speaks before introducing President Donald Trump at the 2018 Project Safe Neighborhoods National Conference in Kansas City, Mo., on Friday, Dec. 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker will testify before the House Judiciary Committee on Feb. 8, appearing as one of the new Democratic majority’s first witnesses as they seek to provide more stringent oversight of President Donald Trump.

In a letter sent to Whitaker Tuesday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler says he is "happy to have reached an agreement for you to appear" on that date. Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec confirmed that Whitaker would appear.

Nadler said last year that Whitaker, a close ally of Trump who has criticized special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, would be one of his first witnesses once he became chairman. Since then, Trump has nominated former attorney general William Barr for the permanent job — meaning Whitaker could potentially be out of office by the time the hearing commences.

Barr was testifying before the Senate on Tuesday as Nadler made the announcement. It was unclear how soon Barr would be confirmed, but senators said it could happen as soon as next week.

Whitaker took the job in November after Trump pushed out Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Trump had repeatedly criticized Sessions for recusing himself from Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, which is examining ties between Russia and the Trump campaign. Trump calls the probe a "witch hunt."

Nadler has criticized Whitaker for not recusing himself from the Mueller probe as Sessions did. He said last month that Whitaker's decision appeared to be "to satisfy President Trump and not to protect the integrity of the department or its ongoing work."

Beyond the criticism about his comments on the Russia probe, critics have raised questions about Whitaker’s involvement with a company that was accused of misleading consumers. In addition, he has faced scrutiny over whether he violated federal law because a campaign committee set up for his failed 2014 U.S. Senate bid accepted $8,800 in donations this year, while Whitaker was serving as a top Justice Department lawyer.

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