The Justice Department is trying to delay acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker’s testimony to the new Democratic-led House until next month, potentially pushing his high-profile appearance until after a permanent replacement has been confirmed, reports Politico. Whitaker had committed to Democratic leaders that he’d give testimony in January to the House Judiciary Committee. Those plans have stalled, with Justice Department officials citing the government shutdown and Whitaker’s busy travel schedule as reasons for pushing back the hearing. House Democrats have been pressing for public answers from Whitaker since November about his role overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation after the departure of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
The Senate is scheduled to hold confirmation hearings on William Barr, President Trump’s nominee for attorney general, next week. Democrats upset about the Justice Department’s delay with Whitaker have been considering a subpoena to force his appearance, figuring they will have only a limited window to ask questions about how he decided against a recusal from overseeing the Mueller probe and any moves he has made involving the investigation. Democrats plan to make a potential Whitaker subpoena their main item of discussion when the Judiciary Committee holds its organizational meeting for the new Congress, possibly this week. Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the new ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said it was essentially pointless for Whitaker to appear because he is on his way out the door.