Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker has been undertaking significant preparations ahead of Friday's oversight hearing with the House Judiciary Committee, according to two senior Justice Department officials.
House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler has zeroed in on Whitaker's conversations with President Donald Trump and oversight of the special counsel's investigation, raising concerns that the administration might invoke privilege so that Whitaker would avoid answering tough questions. Nadler said Monday that he may seek committee approval to subpoena Whitaker to answer questions, if needed, and that vote will happen Thursday morning.
Nadler, a New York Democrat, said he scheduled the subpoena markup on Thursday "in an abundance of caution" to ensure Whitaker testifies and doesn't invoke executive privilege to avoid answering questions.
"To be clear, I hope never to use this subpoena," Nadler said in a statement. "Weeks ago, we gave Mr. Whitaker a list of questions we hope to ask him about his communications with the White House and his refusal to recuse himself from oversight of the special counsel's investigation. If he appears on time and ready to answer those questions, the subpoena will be entirely unnecessary."
The text of Nadler's subpoena has not been made public.
The officials said the department is preparing a "fulsome" written response to Nadler's letter, and it is expected to address the executive privilege issues raised by Nadler.
In a recent interview with The New York Times, Trump said that Whitaker has not given him any indication whether he faces any criminal exposure.
"I don't even talk to him about it," Trump said.
Whitaker has been engaged in robust preparation from the beginning of the government shutdown last month, conducting briefings with every Justice Department component, according to the officials. He's also participated in several mock hearings with career and political appointees since shutdown ended.
The acting attorney general generated a flurry of headlines at his first news conference when he unexpectedly announced that the special counsel probe was close to being completed, eschewing Justice protocol of not commenting on ongoing investigations.
His revelation further raises the stakes for his Friday testimony.
This story has been updated.
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