Acting AG Whitaker testifies before House DOJ oversight hearing

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Democratic Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee held up a copy of the Constitution and became outraged when Whitaker refused to answer her questions with "yes" or "no". Meanwhile, he could not have stated more emphatically that he meant to let the Mueller investigation run its course: "I believe it is vitally important that the special counsel be allowed to complete his investigation", he testified then.

Whitaker said he'd "re-established a positive relationship between the Department of Justice and the White House" since becoming acting attorney general, leading Demings to ask if he agreed with Trump before taking that position.

During the hearing, Mr Whitaker told the committee: "While I have specifically been saying that I'm not going to comment about my conversations with the president or his senior staff I have also been very clear that the president has not instructed me to do anything".

Under questioning from Democrat Chairman Jerry Nadler, Whitaker confirmed he hasn't interfered with the probe or discussed it the White House.

The setup for Whitaker's hearing was fairly typical: Committee members did the asking in five-minute increments.

Republicans on Friday backed Whitaker, with ranking member Doug Collins, R-Ga., calling on the committee to adjourn - although a vote to do so did not pass. Collins called the daylong hearing a "dog and pony show". He is the person "ultimately in charge of the investigation", yet insisted he has not interfered in any way with it.

"We have been quite public about our intention to obtain this information from Mr. Whitaker". In May 2017, he appointed Mueller and he continues to oversee the day-to-day operations of the investigation.

In response, Whitaker, who previously had agreed to testify, warned that he wouldn't show up unless lawmakers dropped the ultimatum he described as "political theater".

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Democrats expressed dissatisfaction with Whitaker's testimony, with Nadler concluding the hearing by telling Whitaker he is planning to call him back for an interview, by subpoena if necessary.

Former Republican governor Chris Christie has known U.S. President Donald Trump for 17 years, but says the advice he's offered hasn't always been heeded.

Whitaker also denied media reports that Trump lashed out at him after learning his former lawyer and personal fixer Michael Cohen was pleading guilty for lying to Congress about a proposed Trump Tower in Moscow.

"When career officials at the department recommended that you take steps to mitigate your apparent conflicts of interest, . you ignored them", Nadler said.

'In your capacity as acting attorney general, have you ever been asked to approve any action or request to be taken by the special counsel?' he asked. He is the first Trump cabinet official to appear before a Democrat-lead House panel.

"Mr. Chairman, I see that your five minutes is up", Whitaker replied, drawing some laughter and gasps from the panel.

The retort came after Nadler had chastised Whitaker for evading questions and said that he wanted Whitaker to appear before the committee "in the coming weeks" for a private deposition.

Democrats have said they want to talk to Whitaker because he is a close ally of Trump who has criticized Mueller's Russian Federation investigation, which he oversees.