Acting US attorney general will testify before House panel

WHITAKER: Acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker arrives to address a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 28. Joshua Roberts/Reuters

WASHINGTON – Acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker has agreed to testify on Friday before the House Judiciary Committee, the Justice Department said on Thursday, after he threatened not to show up following the panel's warning that it could subpoena him.

The committee's Democrats want to question Whitaker about his oversight of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, and his communications with the White House related to the probe and the firing of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Whitaker, whom President Donald Trump chose to head the Justice Department after firing Sessions in November, said earlier on Thursday that he would not show up if Democrats issue him a subpoena, saying their threats show their "true intention" to "create a public spectacle."

Shortly before Whitaker's threat to withdraw from the hearing, the House Judiciary Committee had voted 23-13 along party lines to have a subpoena ready in case Whitaker fails to show up or refuses to answer questions.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat, said the vote only authorized a subpoena, but that one would not be issued as long as Whitaker appeared at the hearing and cooperated.

A subpoena would compel Whitaker to testify. If he still declined, Democrats could take steps to have him held in contempt of Congress.

Whitaker, in a statement, said he would show up only if Democrats committed not to issue a subpoena.

In response, Nadler said Thursday night that if Whitaker agrees to show up and answer questions, then "there will be no need for the committee to issue a subpoena on or before Feb. 8."

Subsequently, a Justice Department spokeswoman said in a statement that Whitaker had agreed to testify after getting assurances from Nadler that no subpoena would be issued on or before Friday.

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