Unfortunately for Matt Whitaker, Matt Whitaker was compelled to voluntarily testify on Capitol Hill Friday before the House Judiciary Committee.
There’s a lot to unpack in that sentence. Let’s start with “Unfortunately for Matt Whitaker, Matt Whitaker…“.
The public already knew Whitaker was hopelessly conflicted when it came to presiding over the Mueller investigation. Whitaker has a long track record of deriding the special counsel probe publicly and his Trump-friendly views on Hillary Clinton and James Comey are well documented. What the public didn’t know until a January 28 press conference (during which US officials announced criminal proceedings against Huawei) is that Matt doesn’t hold up well under questioning – or at least not when the questions are about Robert Mueller.
Whitaker’s sweat-a-thon quickly became a social media sensation last month and that episode certainly seemed to suggest that just about the last place Trump’s Acting AG wanted to find himself was testifying publicly in front angry Democrats on Capitol Hill.
As for the contradiction inherent in our use of “compelled” with “voluntarily” above, Whitaker agreed to testify but briefly retracted his offer on Thursday after the committee voted to give Jerry Nadler the authority to subpoena Matt’s testimony in the event he decided not to show or else wasn’t forthcoming.
Ultimately, that stalemate was resolved when Nadler told Whitaker the following on Thursday evening:
If you appear before the Committee tomorrow morning and if you are prepared to respond to questions from out Members, then I assure you that there will be no need for the Committee to issue a subpoena on or before February 8. To the extent that you believe you are unable to fully respond to any specific question, we are prepared to handle your concerns on a case-by-case basis.
And so, the stage was set.
Matt showed up and as you might imagine, his testimony produced a series of cringe-worthy moments.
Below, for instance, find a bespectacled Whitaker having an absolutely horrible time trying to figure out how to dodge one of the only questions that matters (and in case you’re wondering, yes, his absurd glasses have already become a meme):
Now that, ladies and gentleman, is a man who doesn’t want to answer a “yes or no” question.
If you think that’s painful to watch, have a gander at Matt folding up like wet cardboard while being literally screamed at about the rather stark juxtaposition between the sheer number of guilty pleas and indictments Mueller has secured and the President’s increasingly untenable “witch hunt” characterization:
If Whitaker was terrified going into Friday, it’s safe to say he was correct to be scared, because that is some frightening stuff right there.
At one point, Whitaker got so flustered he couldn’t remember what he said about crime and the border (i.e., about something unrelated to Mueller) in his own opening statement.
Why yes, Matt, that does “sounds like something you would have said”, probably because you in fact did say it literally just this morning in the same room.
Asked directly whether he was advised to recuse himself from the Mueller probe, Whitaker refused to answer:
Matt (chugging water like Brett Kavanaugh) had an extremely difficult time responding to Ted Deutch’s very straightforward questions about whether he (Matt) had spoken to anyone at the White House about his views on the Mueller probe. This is another clip that’s painful to watch:
Of course the highlight of the entire day came early on when Whitaker tried to tell Nadler that his “time was up” only for everyone in the room to (loudly) laugh in Matt’s face.
You get the idea. Whitaker has a lot to hide and if he doesn’t, he sure has a funny way of acting innocent. God only knows how many times he perjured himself on Friday.
Finally, if you’re wondering whether Friday’s proceedings and/or Whitaker going back to being a “private citizen” means Congress won’t get the answers they need from him, Jerry Nadler is happy to clear up any confusion for you.