Rep. Jerry Nadler, the incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, on Sunday promised that acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker would be the first witness newly empowered Democrats call to testify when they take control in January.
“Our very first witness on — after Jan. 3, we will subpoena Mr. — or we will summon, if necessary, subpoena Mr. Whitaker,” Nadler (D-N.Y.) told CNN host Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.”
Until Tuesday’s elections, Democrats lacked the heft of subpoena power when it came to investigating allegations about President Donald Trump and his administration. Trump has said that even if the party can subpoena for documents or for his Cabinet members to testify, they should be aware that two can play at that game — and that Democrats will have to choose between policy deals and investigations.
“Somebody says, ‘Oh, you can do ’em both.’ No, you can’t,” Trump said during a news conference Wednesday. “Because if they’re doing that, we’re not doing the other, just so you understand. So we won’t be doing that.”
Nadler said Trump picked Whitaker, who previously served as Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ chief of staff, to temporarily fill in for his former boss because he’s a “hatchet man.” As a CNN analyst and in other forums, Whitaker criticized special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe and said before joining the Justice Department that Sessions’ replacement could slash Mueller’s budget as a way to curtail and end the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
“He’s totally unqualified,” Nadler said. “And his only qualification seems to be that he wants to be — that the president wants him to be the hatchet man to destroy the Mueller investigation.”
The House Judiciary Committee would also be the site where articles of impeachment against Trump would be written, but the New York Democrat reiterated on Sunday that his party is a long way from that process.
“Impeachment is a question that will come up down the road maybe, depending on findings of the Mueller [investigation],” Nadler said. “We’re far from that right now.”
Some Democrats said before the midterm elections that if they returned to power they would probe Brett Kavanaugh’s contentious Supreme Court confirmation, including whether he commuted perjury. Nadler said it’s “not a question of investigating Justice Kavanaugh” but rather whether the White House put undue pressure on the FBI during its limited-scope investigation of allegations of sexual assault and misconduct leveled against the then-nominee.
“We do have a responsibility, I believe, to investigate the process by which the FBI was stifled in its investigation by the White House,” Nadler told host George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week.” “When the FBI was asked to investigate, there was not a complete investigation.”
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine