The gallery at the House Judiciary Committee hearing Friday during which Democrats peppered acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker with questions about FBI special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation literally gasped.
It was when Whitaker reminded Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., the chairman of the committee, of the committee’s rules.
“Mr. Chairman, I see that your five minutes is up,” Whitaker said. “I’m here voluntarily. I agreed to five-minute rounds.”
Observers described the audience and members of Congress as “bug-eyed and slack-jawed.”
In an extraordinary move, Acting AG Whitaker cut off Chairman Nadler’s questioning by noting:
“Mr. Chairman, I see that your 5 minutes is up.” pic.twitter.com/x9qrf0VHL7
— NBC News (@NBCNews) February 8, 2019
Other Democrats scolded Whitaker, with Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, D-Texas, sternly telling him his humor was not appreciated.
Before Whitaker even spoke, Nadler used his opening statement to press Whitaker personally, asking about finances.
That drew a response from Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the committee.
“We had the show yesterday,” Collins said. “We now have had the curtain drop down, and Mr. Whitaker, I guess your confirmation hearing’s here. You’ve only got five days left on the job.”
On Thursday the committee clashed with the Department of Justice over Democrats’ plans to subpoena Whitaker – during the hearing if Nadler chose to do so.
Whitaker said then he might not attend, prompting Nadler to backtrack.
NBC called it an “extraordinary move” for Whitaker to cut off Nadler.
A blogger for Twitchy, the Twitter news-monitoring site, pointed out that Nadler “reminded everybody that each Q & A turn would be limited to five minutes.”
The blogger said the Democrats on the committee “are trying to redirect almost every topic back to the Russia investigation, and Whitaker has repeatedly said that he wouldn’t answer questions about his private conversations with the president.”
Those conversations would fall under executive privilege.