Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker said he will not voluntarily appear before the House Judiciary Committee this Friday unless the committee agrees not to subpoena him.
“I remain willing to appear to testify tomorrow, provided that the chairman assures me that the committee will not issue a subpoena today or tomorrow, and that the committee will engage in good faith negotiations before taking such a step down the road,” Whitaker said in a statement, according to the Washington Post.
“Political theater is not the purpose of an oversight hearing, and I will not allow that to be the case,” he added, claiming the preemptive subpoena approval breaks historic norms and is unnecessary, considering he had agreed to appear before the committee roughly a month ago.
House Democrats were worried that Whitaker may evade certain questions during his testimony, as he failed to notify them if the Trump administration planned to use executive privilege to allow Whitaker to avoid questions about conversations with the White House.
Thus the House Judiciary Committee approved the subpoena Thursday, despite Republicans’ rejection. Chairman Jerry Nadler said he hopes the subpoena will not be necessary.
“The subpoena will only be issued if he refuses to answer questions on a speculative basis of privilege,” Nadler said, according to CNN. “If he does not show up—though I do expect he will—but if he refuses to answer questions he ought to answer, then we will have the tools we need to ensure that we may adequately meet our own responsibilities.”
The committee’s ranking Republican, Rep. Douglas Collins, said the subpoena approval is “nothing short of political theater,” the Post reports.
Whitaker is being called before the House Judiciary Committee to testify in regards to his oversight of the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. The acting attorney general has refused to recuse himself from the investigation, despite being historically critical of it.
President Donald Trump appointed Whitaker to his role following the forced resignation of Jeff Sessions in November. Sessions had recused himself from the Mueller investigation early on in the Trump administration, angering the president, who had hoped to have an ally in the Justice Department.
Trump’s next pick, William Barr, is set to become the new attorney general soon, as he doesn’t need Democratic votes to be confirmed.