Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker testifies before the House Judiciary Committee

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"I do not intend today to talk about my private conversations with the President of the United States, but to answer your question, I have not talked to the President about the special counsel's investigation", Whitaker told Nadler.

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker insisted on Friday that he has not "interfered in any way" in the special counsel's Russian Federation investigation as he faced a contentious and partisan congressional hearing in his waning days on the job.

Whitaker was willing to travel up to Capitol Hill and talk to lawmakers voluntarily, the Justice Department said - but not under subpoena, and he demanded a guarantee on Thursday that Nadler not slap him with a subpoena at the hearing in the event he didn't answer a question.

Nadler, who was the only Democrat to question Whitaker before they recessed for votes, pushed the acting attorney general hard about his involvement with the Mueller investigation.

When Whitaker seemingly tried to joke about timing with another Democratic committee member, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, she was having none of it. "Mr. Attorney General, we're not joking here, and your humor is not acceptable", she said.

"The Acting Attorney General will testify that at no time did the White House ask for, or did the Acting Attorney General provide, any promises or commitments concerning the Special Counsel's investigation", Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd writes in the new letter obtained by CNN. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., about the conditions under which he would testify.

Whitaker has been undertaking significant preparations ahead of the hearing, including conducting briefings with every the Justice Department component and participating in several mock hearings, according to the officials. "Can you say right now, Mr. President, Bob Mueller is honest and not conflicted?" He noted that he did not enforce the five-minute rule during Whitaker's opening statement, then asked him to "answer the question, please".

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Nadler also warned Whitaker that if he can't fully answer a specific question, "we are prepared to handle your concerns on a case-by-case basis, both during and after [the] hearing". "We have agreed to five-minute rounds", said Whitaker, seemingly surprised by the room's response.

Whitaker's behavior before the committee, said former Assistant FBI Director Frank Figliuzzi on MSNBC's "Deadline: White House", was one of the most appalling things he'd ever seen. "The department's failure to do its due diligence to me is deeply troubling", he said.

Republicans on Friday backed Whitaker, with ranking member Doug Collins, R-Ga., calling on the committee to adjourn - although a vote to do so did not pass.

On Thursday Whitaker had threatened not to appear at the hearing after Democrats approved a tenative subpoena, that if issued, would have compelled the acting attorney general to answer the panel's questions.

Trump's nominee for attorney general, William Barr, is expected to face a Senate confirmation vote next week. "He's an outstanding person, a very very fine man", Trump said during a presidential memorandum signing in the Oval Office Thursday.

Democrats on the Ways and Means committee have taken the first step to obtain Mr Trump's tax returns, which he refused to publicly release during the 2016 campaign.

The tense back-and-forth only served to raise the stakes on Whitaker's scheduled appearance, as each side accused the other of acting in bad faith, and sought to set a tone for the next two years of confrontations between the Democratic-controlled House and the Trump administration.

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