Whitaker hearing continues to produce little except denials
No one in the Trump White House talks to anyone about anything. And no one turns on a television. That’s the only conclusion that can be drawn from the extended hearing of the House Judiciary Committee with acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker.
According to Whitaker, he was briefed on the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, but did not share that briefing with anyone other than a single staff member who was present. Whitaker also denied that he had shared the contents of that briefing with Trump, or with Trump’s attorneys, or with any senior White House officials. And he claimed that he was unaware as to whether either Donald Trump or Jefferson Sessions knew about his public attacks on the Mueller investigation. And he went so far as to say he had no idea what Trump thought about Sessions’ recusing himself from the Russia investigation, which was the clearest lie of the afternoon.
However, Whitaker didn’t deny that anything was talked about. He just wouldn’t talk about it. Whenever the subject moved beyond the specifics of whether he had shared the contents of his briefing with Trump, Whitaker retreated behind either 1) he would not talk about his “private discussions” with Trump, or 2) he would not talk about ongoing investigations, or 3) he would not talk about “internal deliberations.” This refusal extended even to providing an answer to questions about his previous public statements, and didn’t leave a lot of room for actual oversight.
One of those areas that Whitaker specifically would not discuss was questions about whether he talked to Trump, or anyone else at the White House, about the case being conducted by the Southern District of New York against Michael Cohen. The same thing applied when Whitaker was asked if he had talked with Trump about reassigning or firing personnel assigned to the SDNY.
Just as in the morning session, the hearing has generated little in the way of satisfaction. Through most of the day, Whitaker has continued his tactic of simply refusing to answer yes or no to any question. Instead, he’s run out the clock on every Democratic representative by appending a variety of lengthy phrases to every answer and constantly wrapping every response in a layer of repetition and vagueness. Questions coming from the Republican side, including one asking if Whitaker was “concerned” about laws on abortions that “amount to infanticide,” have demonstrated that he is capable of delivering a short, declarative answer—and yes, his answer was yes.