House Democrats summoned acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker to testify by the morning of the State of the Union address on Jan. 29, rejecting a Justice Department plea to delay the hearing until February, reports Politico. Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said that day was last that the panel could hear from Whitaker, a critic of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation who has refused to recuse himself from overseeing the probe. Republicans have called Whitaker’s appearance pointless, arguing that the Senate is soon set to confirm his permanent replacement, William Barr.
Democrats will not allow Whitaker to fade away without a proper grilling. And they’re intent on hearing from him about how and why he got the job, whether President Trump asked him to end or limit the FBI’s Russia investigation and why he has ignored recommendations from ethics officials that he recuse himself from the matter. Nadler told DOJ on Wednesday that “it has been nearly 15 months since Attorney General Sessions testified before the committee. It is past time for the committee to conduct oversight.” DOJ had asked to postpone the hearing until Feb. 12 or Feb. 13 — “so long as the Department is at least two weeks removed from a partial government shutdown.” Democrats cited 1995 guidance from the DOJ Office of Legal Counsel that officials may appear before Congress in a shutdown.