What was pitched as an oversight hearing with Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker on Friday quickly morphed into recriminations and barbed exchanges as Democrats pressed him for hours on his dealings with FBI Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation - and Whitaker, in turn, angered committee lawmakers with his equally fiery comebacks.
But the escalating dispute between Nadler and the Justice Department now raises questions about the likelihood of Whitaker appearing in what could be his only congressional testimony while leading the Justice Department, with William Barr on a path to be confirmed as the permanent attorney general by the Senate next week.
Watch the hearing live at 9:30 a.m., Friday. Nadler said that as late as last week the committee had received reports that some at the department were counseling Whitaker not to appear.
"I have not talked to the president of the United States about the special counsel investigation", Mr Whitaker told the House Judiciary Committee.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep.
"Without the threat of a subpoena, I believe it may be hard to hold Mr. Whitaker to this standard", Nadler said earlier Thursday. The testimony ended with Nadler warning that the answers Whitaker gave were insufficient.
There was laughter and audible "Ohhhs" in the room as Nadler smiled and Whitaker attempted to justify his non-answer by saying, "I'm here voluntarily, we've agreed to five-minute rounds".
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It seems likely that Congress is going to have many witnesses from the administration testifying about questions that are similarly uncomfortable-and equally likely that many of these witnesses will invoke the shield of executive privilege to avoid answering such questions.
"I will not allow the witness to stall and waste members' time", Nadler said.
Asked about Whitaker testifying before Congress, President Donald Trump called Whitaker an "outstanding person" and said he would do very well should he testify.
"It's becoming a show", said the Republican congressman Doug Collins, of Georgia, who accused his Democratic colleagues of "character assassination". When Whitaker tried to respond, the New York Democrat interrupted: "Mr Whitaker, that was a statement, not a question". The Senate judiciary committee voted along party lines Thursday to advance Barr's nomination.
Midway through the hearing, as Nadler asked whether Whitaker had ever "been asked to approve any action or request to be taken by the special counsel", Whitaker noted that Nadler's allotted time had elapsed, according to CNN. After refusing to answer in a yes or no fashion and questioned whether she had the authority to continue asking questions because her time had expired, Jackson Lee rebuked the acting attorney general. "I have no reason to believe he is not honest".
Nadler then said his time was expired and recognized Collins to begin his questioning. "Answer the question, please".
Differences over a barrier were the crux of a dispute between Democrats and Trump that led to the recent partial government shutdown - and the government could shut down again unless negotiators can make progress on a deal to fund the Department of Homeland Security.
"Any questions unanswered today [that] require consultation with the White House, will be asked again ... and I expect either a clean answer or a proper assertion of privilege claimed by the president", Nadler said.