Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker said he has not received special counsel Robert Mueller's report.
The revelation came after Congressman Eric Swalwell, a Democrat from California, pressed Whitaker on the Mueller report.
Whitaker went on to say that Mueller is going to “finish his investigation when he wants to finish his investigation.”
Asked if he thought Mueller was honest, Whitaker said, "I have no reason to believe he's not honest, so yes I do believe he's honest."
Here's a portion of their exchange:
Swalwell: "Has there been discussion at the Department of Justice about keeping the Mueller report from going to Congress?"
Whitaker: "No. We in fact were continuing to follow the special counsel regulations as it relates to the report. We haven’t received the report."
Swalwell: "Has there been a draft opinion about keeping it from going to Congress?"
Whitaker: "You know congressman I’m not going to talk about the kind of ongoing investigation that is the special counsel."
Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell asked Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker about any discussions inside his department about potential pardons for former Trump associates Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, Michael Flynn and Michael Cohen.
"Congressman, as I've been acting attorney general, I have not been involved in any discussions of any pardon, even and including the ones you're discussing," Whitaker said.
Here's a look at the charges special counsel Robert Mueller's team has brought against President Trump's former associates:
- Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign chairman, was found guilty on eight counts of financial crimes. He has also pleaded guilty to several federal crimes.
- Michael Flynn, a former national security adviser to Trump, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.
- Michael Cohen, Trump's former attorney, pleaded guilty in federal court to a charge from Mueller's office. (He also pleaded guilty to eight counts in a separate case from the Manhattan US attorney's office)
- Roger Stone, a longtime Trump associate, was indicted by a grand jury on charges brought by Mueller, who alleged Stone sought stolen emails from WikiLeaks that could damage Trump's opponents during the campaign.
Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker denied a CNN report that President Trump had lashed out at him on at least two occasions, angered by federal prosecutors who referenced the President's actions in crimes his former lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to.
Asked by Rep. David Cicilline, a Democrat from Rhode Island, if the President had “lashed out” at him after Michael Cohen's guilty plea for lying to Congress, and again days later when prosecutors in Manhattan implicated Trump in a hush money scheme around the 2016 election, Whitaker said, “No, he did not.”
Whitaker also denied that anyone inside or outside of the White House had lashed out at him after the Cohen developments.
CNN’s report was based on multiple sources familiar with the matter.
Here's the exchange:
Cicilline: "Did the President lash out at you after Michael Cohen’s guilty plea for lying to Congress about a Trump organization project to build a tower in Moscow?"
Whitaker: "The President specifically tweeted that he had not lashed out."
Cicilline: "I’m asking you Mr. Whitaker, did the President lash out at you? Not asking what he tweeted. I don’t have a lot of confidence in the veracity of his tweets. I’m asking you under oath."
Whitaker: "Congressman that is based on an unsubstantiated…"
Cicilline: "Sir, answer the question: yes or no, did the President lash out at you about Mr. Cohen’s guilty plea?"
Whitaker: "No he did not."
The FBI is prepared to brief House Judiciary Committee members in a closed session on the factors that influenced their decision to conduct the Roger Stone arrest before dawn and with heavy weapons drawn, Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker said Friday.
“The FBI makes arrests in a manner most likely to ensure the safety of its agents and of the person being arrested. The FBI must also consider the safety of the surrounding community,” Whitaker said.
“I cannot provide the details in this open hearing without revealing what factors the FBI considers in those decisions and obviously that information could be used to put other FBI agents conducting other operations in harm’s way. What I can assure you, congressman, is that the FBI is prepared to brief this matter on the decisions that were made in that particular arrest in a closed session of this committee,” he said.
Stone has been highly critical of the manner in which he was arrested, though he has praised the individual FBI officers that he dealt with as professional. A number of Republican lawmakers have asked the Justice Department to explain the manner of the arrest.
Democratic Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, who earlier today told CNN that Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker was acting like a "petulant child," opened his five-minute questioning by asking, "Who are you? Where did you come from? And how the heck did you become the head of the Department of Justice?"
Jeffries then proceeded to ask Whitaker to confirm the identified criminal acts, indictments, and prison sentences that have come from special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation so far.
"One by one, all of the president's men are going down in flames," Jeffries said.
"Let's be clear. The investigation into Russia's attack on democracy is not a witch hunt, it's not a fishing expedition, it's not a hoax, it's not a lynch mob, it's a national security imperative. The fact that people suggest otherwise comes dangerously close to providing aid and comfort to the enemy," he added.
Congresswoman Debbie Lesko, a Republican from Arizona, described her disappointment over the House Judiciary Committee's handling of Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker's hearing.
"You know, I have to say that I'm very disappointed in this hearing. You know, I ran for Congress to get things done, and at the beginning of this, you know, we were told that this is about asking about DOJ oversight and some legitimate questions," she said.
Lesko said the hearing is "nothing but character assassination, harassment of our witness, and it's really disappointing."
The congresswoman said she was initially mad about the hearing. But now she's sad.
"At first I was mad. I have to tell you, when this thing started hours ago, I went outside and a reporter asked me, what do you think of the hearing? I said, 'It's a joke.' But now I'm just sad. I'm sad because we were on the floor just a little while ago talking about how we are honoring our late representative (John) Dingell in talking about bipartisanship and how we need to get things done. And yet here we are a blatant political show that doesn't help anything. I imagine if American people are watching this right now, they would be shaking their heads, like what are you doing there? We need to work together to get things done," Lesko said.
Watch the moment:
Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, said he doesn’t believe Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker’s assurances that he didn’t talk to President Trump about special counsel Robert Mueller's probe.
Cohen told CNN he thinks Whitaker is lying. (Remember: Lying to Congress is a crime.)
When pressed on the claim, Cohen had no evidence to contradict Whitaker. Yet he thinks Whitaker broke the law.
During the hearing, Cohen pressed Whitaker on whether he think the Mueller investigation is a "witch hunt." President Trump has repeatedly called the probe a "witch hunt."
Whitaker did not answer the question. He however did say he has not denied funds to Mueller and his team.
Former Sen. Barbara Boxer, a Democrat from California who decided to retire in the 2016 election, said she has never seen a witness "display the type of arrogance & contempt for democracy" that Acting Attorney General Matt Whittaker did in his testimony today.
Boxer served in the US House before she was elected to the Senate.
Here's her tweet from this morning:
Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker explained why he thinks President Trump selected him for the top Justice role, highlighting his past experience as a prosecutor and his proximity to former attorney general Jeff Sessions that would let him “continue the momentum at the Department of Justice we had established in addressing these important priority issues, like reducing violent crime, combatting the opioid crisis, and others.”
Whitaker earlier said that he had no reason to doubt Trump’s contention in an interview last year that he was unaware of Whitaker’s past public hostility to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.
Whitaker also said he had no direct conversations about the Mueller investigation with anyone at the White House in the immediate months before he was selected as Sessions’ chief of staff in 2017.
Read his full remarks:
“I believe the President chose me to be the acting attorney general for a couple reasons. First, I had served previously in the department as a united states attorney, which is a very important position... in the administration of justice.
And for 13 months I was the chief of staff for attorney general Sessions and I have done the full year with him side by side, obviously he made the decisions but I gave him advice and counsel and I was aware of everything that was going on at the Department of Justice that obviously Sessions wasn’t recused from.
And so I think the President was comfortable that to continue the momentum at the Department of Justice we had established in addressing these important priority issues, like reducing violent crime, combatting the opioid crisis and others that the President felt I was best positioned to do the duties of attorney general."