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Judiciary Committee Chairman Nadler Letter to Acting AG Whitaker Demands Appearance by January 29th

Washington, DC, January 9, 2019
DOJ’s OLC twice determined that Justice Department officials are required to provide testimony at hearings, even during a funding lapse.

Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) sent the following letter to Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker requiring his testimony by January 29th, 2019.  Since November 30th, when the Acting Attorney General committed to appear for a January hearing, the House Judiciary Committee has been working to schedule an appropriate time for his testimony.  In response to Chairman Nadler’s December 21st formal request for his appearance, Mr. Whitaker blamed the government shutdown, as well as the need for appropriate prior notice, in order to find an acceptable date. 

Below is a copy of Chairman Nadler’s letter to the Acting Attorney General laying out the requirement for Mr. Whitaker to testify in front of the House Judiciary Committee:

January 9, 2019

The Honorable Matthew Whitaker
Acting Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20530

Dear Acting Attorney General Whitaker:

I am in receipt of your response to my December 21 letter in which you offer to testify before the Committee on the Judiciary “on February 12, 2019 or February 13, 2019 . . . so long as the Department is at least two weeks removed from a partial government shutdown.”  

I cannot accept your proposal.  We are willing to work with you to identify a mutually identifiable date for your testimony, but we will not allow that date to slip past January 29, 2019—the day of the President’s scheduled address to Congress, when we know you will be in Washington.  

As you know, it has been nearly 15 months since Attorney General Sessions testified before the Committee.  It is past time for the Committee to conduct oversight of the Department, and I understood you to have committed to testifying before the Committee in January during our telephone call on November 30, 2018.  We require your testimony—in January—on a number of pressing matters:

  • We are preparing legislation on a wide range of issues that involve the Department of Justice, including bills that address voting rights, immigration, gun violence, the Violence Against Women Act, and foreign influence on the federal government. 
  • We have begun an inquiry into the circumstances, rationale, and impact of the Department’s decision to alter its litigation position relating to the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.   
  • We have questions about several recent efforts by the Administration that could have the effect of weakening federal protections for civil rights.
  • We require an explanation for several apparently false statements by Administration officials about national security threats at the Southern border, including President Trump’s demonstrably false statement, during last year’s address to Congress, that “according to data provided by the Department of Justice, the vast majority of individuals convicted of terrorism and terrorism-related offenses since 9/11 came here from outside of our country.” 
  • We must discuss the impact of President’s near-daily statements attacking the integrity of the Department of Justice, the FBI, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. 

In addition, I expect that Members will have a number of questions relating to your personal tenure at the Department of Justice.  The public is entitled to know why you chose to disregard the advice of career ethics officials at the Department with respect to your oversight of the Special Counsel.  Similarly, we are entitled to a clear explanation of the current line of responsibility for the supervision of the Special Counsel’s investigation.

Finally, with respect to the proposal that we delay your appearance until we are “at least two weeks removed from a partial government shutdown,” we refer you to the Department’s own guidance.  In 1995, the Office of Legal Counsel twice determined that, in the event of a funding lapse, “the Department may continue activities such as providing testimony at hearings if the Department’s participation is necessary for the hearing to be effective.” (19 Op. O.L.C. 337, 338; see also 19 Op. O.L.C. 301).  Your presence is certainly necessary to this hearing.  Indeed, some of the most critical questions my colleagues may ask concern the impact of the shutdown on Department operations and personnel.

Thank you, and I look forward to your testimony on January 29, 2019.

Sincerely,

__________________________________

Chairman Jerrold Nadler
House Committee on the Judiciary

cc: The Hon. Doug Collins
      Ranking Member, House Committee on the Judiciary

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