If you had any questions about whether Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker is starting to realize he’s in over his head, those questions were answered last month when his head started sweating profusely during a press conference announcing a federal grand jury indictment of Huawei which stands accused of bank fraud and obstruction of justice.
Things started out ok, but when Whitaker was asked about the Mueller probe, he became visibly nervous. The video of Matt stammering and sweating bullets quickly went viral, producing all manner of memes and sparking a flurry of hilarious quips from the liberal media.
Here, for those who missed it, is Whitaker attempting (unsuccessfully) to convince the public he’s comfortable taking questions about the special counsel probe he oversees:
That, right there, is a man who pretty clearly believes that he might end up ensnared in the same obstruction investigation he’s tasked with presiding over until William Barr takes the reins.
The “statements as a private citizen” Whitaker refers to in the clip are of course the myriad public rebukes of Mueller that Matt arrogantly delivered on TV and radio and in print during 2017. We’ve documented all of those (as well as his history of being generally obsequious vis-à-vis Donald Trump) in exhaustive detail in these pages (see our Matt Whitaker archive).
Long story short, Whitaker is on the same page with Trump when it comes to pretty much everything the President has ever said about Mueller and Hillary Clinton (and, to a certain extent, James Comey).
In July of 2016, for instance, Whitaker, wrote an Op-Ed for USA Today called “I would indict Hillary Clinton.” In May of 2017, he wrote an Op-Ed for The Hill called “James Comey served faithfully, but the president made the right decision“. In June of 2017, Whitaker told WMAL radio that Trump did not obstruct justice by firing Comey. Two months later, Whitaker penned an Op-Ed for CNN called “Mueller’s investigation of Trump is going too far“.
And that’s hardly the end of it. As head of something called FACT, Whitaker gave what appear to be dozens of interviews to TV and radio where he variously railed against the idea that Trump’s campaign had anything to do with Russia. You can amuse yourself with some clips from those interviews here.
Well, Whitaker is wading into some dark waters now that Democrats have control of the House. Matt was scheduled to appear before the House Judiciary Committee on Friday to answer questions about his conversations with Trump, and also about his extremely ill-advised decision not to recuse himself from the Mueller probe in light of all the things he said publicly about the investigation prior to becoming Acting AG.
Clearly, Whitaker can’t be trusted to answer all of the questions that need answering, which is why the committee voted to give Jerry Nadler the authority to subpoena Matt’s testimony in the event he decides not to show or else isn’t forthcoming.
“I hope not to have to use the subpoena”, Nadler said Thursday, adding the obvious, which is this:
Unfortunately, a series of troubling events over the past few months suggest that we should be prepared.
Right. And speaking of “prepared”, Whitaker is not – despite the best efforts of the DOJ. To wit, from The Daily Beast:
Whitaker has gone through multiple practice committee hearings––known as moots––where Justice Department officials pepper him with questions that committee Democrats may lob, according to multiple DOJ officials involved in his preparation. They have tried to prepare him for lengthy statements, harsh tones, and leading questions
Apparently scared out of his mind, Matt is now refusing to appear unless the committee drops the subpoena threat.
“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,” Matt said in a statement, adding that in his mind, the committee “deviated from historic practice and protocol” in taking “the unnecessary and premature step of authorizing a subpoena to me, the acting attorney general, even though I had agreed to voluntarily appear.”
Of course Whitaker needn’t worry if there’s nothing to hide, but apparently there is. Here’s The Washington Post:
[Democrats] pointed to a pattern of administration witnesses, such as former attorney general Jeff Sessions, who refused to answer certain queries by suggesting that the president “might” want to invoke executive privilege over certain parts of their testimony, to justify the concern.
“The committee can and should expect a direct answer to any question,” said Nadler, who opted to send Whitaker his questions in advance and require that he tell the panel about any plans to invoke executive privilege at least 48 hours before the hearing. “That deadline has come and gone . . . therefore I expect the acting attorney general to answer all of these questions without equivocation.”
Republicans objected to the move, arguing that Whitaker had not given the panel a legitimate reason to be concerned.
Well, yes, Whitaker has in fact given the panel all kinds of “legitimate reasons to be concerned”. And unfortunately for Republicans, all of those reasons are public record as documented in Op-Eds published by some of the most recognizable media outlets on the planet. Matt also has a veritable archive of CNN video clips criticizing the Mueller probe and implicitly plugging for Trump.
Mercifully for the White House, Matt will be relieved of his duties as Acting AG by Barr, who holds up better under questioning.
As far as how the current drama between Whitaker and the House Judiciary Committee will ultimately pan out, we’ll just have to wait and see. But if he does end up on Capitol Hill, we hope he brings a stick of deodorant and an extra shirt (or four or five), because it’s gonna be hot in there.