Democrats are eager to press acting Whitaker during his first testimony to Congress on his interactions with Trump and his oversight of the special counsel's Russian Federation investigation.
"I can assure this committee that before appointing me to this position, the president did not ask for and I did not provide any promises beforehand", Whitaker answered.
Asked if he has spoken with the president, any Trump associates or Trump's family members as a private citizen before joining the administration, Whitaker told the U.S. House Judiciary Committee: "No, I did not". "There's been no event, no decision that has required me to take any action, and I've not interfered in any way with the special counsel's investigation", he said. When Jackson Lee asked Nadler for her time to be restored, Whitaker responded as if the question had been directed towards him. The president himself kept an eye on the proceedings before leaving the White House for his annual physical.
Even before the hearing, it was a contest about who was in charge. And that could preclude Whitaker from potentially testifying.
"Answer the question please", Nadler replied.
Whitaker's appearance Friday followed serious doubt Thursday that he would show up to testify.
The questions Democrats want to ask Whitaker - outlined in a January 22 letter to which the AG did not respond until Thursday - fall under "a category of communications that Administrations of both parties have viewed as raising confidentiality interests that are vital to a President's ability to discharge the responsibilities of his office", Whitaker wrote in his letter. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), Frank Pallone Jr.
Nadler, a bulldog questioner under the Republican majority, piped up. Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee got into a testy exchange with the acting attorney general about whether the Mueller investigation was a "witch hunt" - one of the President's signature insults. "We don't need a speech".
On Friday, an hour before Whitaker was due to appear, Nadler, along with Reps.
Whitaker tried to interrupt, sparking a yelling match.
"I intend to be fully transparent about this process", Nadler said. I control this time, Mr. Whitaker.
Later in the hearing, Whitaker seemed to get his feet under him.
"In light of that commitment", department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said in a statement, Whitaker looked forward to come to Capitol Hill and discussing "the great work" carried out by the department.
And he had more to say.
"I trust that the members of this committee will respect the confidentiality that is necessary to the proper functioning of the presidency - just as we respect the confidentiality necessary to the legislative branch, " Whitaker said.