Acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker testifies before House Judiciary Committee

Acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker prepares to testify before the House Judiciary Committee

The tense atmosphere was apparent from the start, as Nadler told Whitaker that as he answered questions, he would "expect either a clean answer or a proper assertion of privilege claimed by the president".

Late Thursday, there was considerable doubt about Whitaker's appearance.

House of Representatives judiciary committee hearing, adding that he has not taken any action in the probe or interfered "in any way".

"In an abundance of caution - to ensure that Mr. Whitaker both appears in the hearing room on Friday morning and answers our questions cleanly - I have asked the Committee to authorize me to issue a subpoena to compel his testimony", Nadler said in a statement Tuesday.

Facing off with Democrats in his first and likely only congressional testimony while leading the Justice Department, Whitaker was often defiant in responding to their questions, at one point cutting off Chairman Jerry Nadler to note the chairman's allotted time was up, drawing the scoffs of astonished members of Congress.

Speaking on MSNBC shortly after the hearing, former FBI Assistant Director for Counterintelligence Frank Figliuzzi said Whitaker's performance compared negatively to some of the most risky criminals he had interviewed in his career.

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"This hearing is pointless!"

Democrats became increasingly agitated at what they saw as Whitaker's efforts to run out the clock and control the hearing process.

"He argued that questions about Mr Trump's business interests were outside the special counsel's scope, and said: "[Mr Mueller] is only authorised to investigate matters that involved any potential links to and co-ordination between two entities - the Trump campaign and the Russian government". The president himself kept an eye on the proceedings before leaving the White House for his annual physical.

There was some curious timing regarding a letter from Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker to the House Judiciary Committee.

Many of the Democrats have reservations about Barr that hinge on how he will treat Mueller's investigation.

But Mr. Whitaker also frustrated Democrats, by repeatedly declining to offer specific information about the probe.

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"Your department was not tracking parents who were separated from their children".

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., tried to ask Whitaker who paid him the more than $1.2 million that he made heading a right-leaning nonprofit that doesn't disclose its donors, according to the nonprofit's tax filings.

Some sought to dress Whitaker down further.

"Congresswoman, I am an acting attorney general".

Jayapal was speaking to Joy Reid on MSNBC about a contentious interaction she had with acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker over family separations at the border.

Nadler made clear early Thursday that he did not want to have to subpoena Whitaker, but said a "series of troubling events" suggested it would be better for him to be prepared with that authority, just in case he decided not to show up for the hearing.

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Trump critics and leftists mocked Whitaker as "unqualified and ignorant".

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