Whitaker: There’s been no change in Russia probe management

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker will tell lawmakers on Friday that there has been no change since his arrival on the job in the “overall management” of the special counsel’s Russia investigation. He also will say that he has run the Justice Department to the best of his ability, with “fidelity to the law and to the Constitution.”

The prepared comments at his first — and likely only — congressional hearing as the country’s chief law enforcement officer are aimed as assuaging concerns from Democrats, who are eager to press him on his interactions with President Donald Trump and his oversight of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Whitaker is likely in his final days as the country’s chief law enforcement officer because the Senate plans to vote soon on confirming William Barr, Trump’s pick for attorney general.

“There has been no change in the overall management of the Special Counsel investigation,” Whitaker will say, according to his prepared remarks. “I have and will continue to manage this investigation in a manner that is consistent with the governing regulations.”

Whitaker’s highly anticipated testimony Friday had been in limbo after the Democratic-led House Judiciary Committee approved a tentative subpoena to ensure that he appeared and answered questions. Whitaker responded by saying he would not come unless the committee dropped its subpoena threat, which he called an act of “political theater.”

The stalemate ended Thursday evening after the committee chairman, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said the committee would not issue a subpoena if Whitaker appeared voluntarily.

“In light of that commitment,” department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said in a statement, Whitaker looked forward to going to Capitol Hill and discussing “the great work” carried out by the department.

Democrats who perceive Whitaker as a Trump loyalist were expected to ask him whether he has made any commitments to the president about Mueller’s Russia investigation and whether he has shared with Trump any inside information. Also expected to come up was Whitaker’s comment last week that he believed the investigation into potential ties between Russia and the Trump campaign was nearly done.

Whitaker laid the groundwork for a likely tussle with Democrats by saying that while he would address their questions, he would not reveal details of his communications with the president.

“I trust that the Members of this Committee will respect the confidentiality that is necessary to the proper functioning of the Presidency — just as we respect the confidentiality necessary to the Legislative Branch,” Whitaker will say.

Democrats said they would inquire about Whitaker’s past business dealings, too. Nadler and three other House committee chairmen released documents they said show Whitaker failed to return thousands of dollars that were supposed to be distributed to victims of a company’s alleged fraud.

Whitaker has come under scrutiny for his involvement with the invention promotion company, World Patent Marketing, which was accused of misleading consumers and has been under investigation by the FBI.

Whitaker had been chief of staff to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was forced from the Cabinet last November as Trump seethed over Sessions’ decision to step aside from overseeing the Russia investigation. Whitaker was an outspoken critic of the investigation before arriving at the Justice Department in 2017.

Trump insists there was “no collusion” between his campaign and Russia.

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