Matt Whitaker, the former acting attorney general of the United States, will testify for a second time before the House Judiciary Committee, it was announced on Tuesday. That news has been overshadowed by the Congressional testimony of Donald Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen (“[Trump] is a racist. He is a conman. He is a cheat,” Cohen said in his opening statement), but it is significant, since this testimony is needed because Whitaker may have lied under oath to the committee earlier this month.
Whitaker’s Feb. 8 testimony before the committee was his only appearance before Congress during his three months as acting attorney general. The University of Iowa graduate was appointed acting attorney general by President Trump in November 2018, after Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He served in an acting capacity until William Barr was sworn in as attorney general on Feb. 14. Whitaker is currently a senior counselor in the Office of the Associate Attorney General.
Whitaker’s return to Capitol Hill comes in response to a Feb. 13 letter from Rep. Jerry Nadler, chair of the Judiciary Committee.
“Members on both sides of the aisle found many of your answers to be unsatisfactory, incomplete, or contradicted by other evidence,” the New York Democrat wrote to Whitaker.
Nadler cited Whitaker’s response to questions about whether Trump had called him “at least twice to express his frustration after his Michael Cohen, his former attorney, pleaded guilty in the Southern District of New York.” Whitaker said such calls never happened.
According to Nadler, “the Committee has identified several individuals with direct knowledge of the phone calls you denied receiving from the White House. As a result, we require your clarification on this point without delay.”
In his letter, Nadler also noted, “several of our members asked you if you had discussed your private opinions of the Special Counsel’s investigation with White House officials prior to your arrival at the Department of Justice in 2017.”
Whitaker had made frequent cable news and talk radio appearances praising and defending Trump, and criticizing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, prior to joining the Justice Department on Sept. 22, 2017. He even wrote an op-ed for CNN explaining how to cripple the investigation without having to fire Mueller.
In his Feb. 8 testimony, Whitaker appeared to offer different answers on this topic to different committee members. “We require your clarification on this point as well,” Nadler wrote to Whitaker.
“These are by no means the only areas in which we hope you can elaborate on your testimony,” Nadler continued. “We continue to seek answers about what may be improper communications you have had with the White House about several ongoing criminal investigations.”
Whitaker’s testimony will occur during a closed session of the Judiciary Committee. The date has not yet been set.