Former Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker declined to repeat denials that President Donald Trump called him after his former lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress and arranging hush-money payments, according to the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
“Unlike in the hearing room, Mr. Whitaker did not deny that the president called him to discuss the Michael Cohen case and personnel decisions in the Southern District” of New York, Representative Jerrold Nadler told reporters Wednesday after two hours of closed-door questioning.
Nadler had demanded that Whitaker meet with the panel to resolve what the New York Democrat portrayed as contradictions in Whitaker’s public testimony before the committee on Feb. 8. Whitaker left the Justice Department this month after William Barr was confirmed as attorney general.
The lawmaker wouldn’t describe Whitaker’s latest comments beyond saying that he “did not deny” that Trump called him in frustration about Cohen’s guilty plea and agreement to cooperate with the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan.
He also said Whitaker didn’t deny that “while he was acting as attorney general, Mr. Whitaker was directly involved in conversations about whether to fire one or more U.S. Attorneys.'
Representative Doug Collins of Georgia, the Judiciary panel’s top Republican, was also in the room during Wednesday questioning, and challenged Nadler’s account that Whitaker changed his story.
“No, I didn’t have that takeaway at all,” Collins said. “In fact, he said he never talked with the president about Mr. Cohen at all and no conversation with the Southern District of New York either.”