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Continuing Coverage of Testimony by Acting Attorney General Whitaker. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired February 8, 2019 - 13:30   ET



CLINE: All of these issues are of top concern to my constituents, and one of the most important things that I hear about when I get back to my district is, "are you going to keep the government operating?" "Can you reach an agreement on immigration issues?"

So when we talk about immigration, I can ask you a couple of questions that would probably help get to an immigration agreement. A backlog of pending cases in immigration courts nationwide have been exponentially since 2008 from fewer than 200,000 in 2008 to more than 800,000.

And Border Patrol is currently apprehending almost 50,000 aliens each month, a certain percentage of which ends up in that same pending case backlog. And in the face of this backlog, what steps is DOJ taking to ensure that its immigration judges can efficiently and effectively adjudicate cases and reduce this backlog of pending cases in a fair and efficient manner?

WHITAKER: Thank you, Congressman this is an important issue to the Department of Justice and our immigration judges work hard every day to adjudicate those cases but quite frankly, the number of immigration judges we have has -- have been overwhelmed by the number of asylum seekers.

Over 80 percent, and really over 90 percent of those that are encountered at the border and detained and arrested, claim some form of asylum. Ultimately that causes those folks to be put in to the immigration court system, and then requires that a hearing be held by an immigration judge.

And meanwhile most of these folks -- those 800,000 that are pending, are not part of the detained docket they are part of the released docket. And those cases take longer -- the ones that are not detained, the non-detained docket. And they have caused since 2008 that number to go dramatically up.

What we have done about that situation is General Sessions and I have issued Attorney General orders changing some of the specifics as to how those cases are adjudicated (ph) and in addition we have -- together with the help of Congress which you've authorized and funded, more immigration judges, we have put a dramatic number of more judges -- especially to the areas where it's needed, which is oftentimes at the border. CLINE: So you've also put in place an additional performance metric to gauge the performance of judges working to complete cases and reduce the backlog.

Are those working? And you've gotten pushback from groups who are concerned that they amount to case quotas.

And if they are working are you aware of any organization in which productivity of its workers isn't assessed as one part of a multi- dimensional performance review?

WHITAKER: Yes. In fact, government=wide where there are administrative law judges similar to our immigration judges there are typically performance metrics that are in place to not only evaluate their productivity, but also to budget and manage that workforce.

CLINE: And what are you doing to ensure that continuances in immigration cases are not abused and are granted solely for good cause?

WHITAKER: We issued an attorney general order, which set the standard which had been different based on what the immigration appeals court, which is an internal -- the Board of Immigration Appeals, which is an internal DOJ body that the Attorney General sits over.

We've passed rules and regulations in a new standard for issuing those continuances for a good cause as you mentioned.

CLINE: All right, thank you. I yield back.

NADLER: Thank you gentleman. I'll now yield to the gentleman from Rhode Island for the purpose of unanimous consent request.

CICILLINE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would ask unanimous consent that the following articles be placed in the record.

The first is an article entitled, "Exclusive Trump loyalist Matthew Whitaker was counseling the White House on investigating Clinton".

The second article, "Session's replacement Matthew Whitaker called Mueller's appointment ridiculous and a little fishy".

Third article, "All the times Robert Mueller's new boss railed against the Russian probe; Trump's pick to replace Jeff Session's once said Mueller investigation risk becoming a witch hunt".

And finally an article entitled, "Trump's new acting Attorney General once mused about defending Robert Mueller".

NADLER: With that objection, these documents will be placed in the record and I recognize the gentlemen for five minutes.

CICILLINE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Whitaker, I'm going to be really straight with you up front. I'm going to cut you off if you make long speeches. We have very limited time. You do not need to thank me for asking the question or compliment me that it's a good one. I'll amuse they're all good questions and you're grateful.

One, you were briefed by the special counsel; you've acknowledged that. Did you share that information with any members of your staff - the information learned in that briefing from the special counsel or his team?

WHITAKER: Congressmen, as I've previously testified there was one other individual in that briefing with...

CICILLINE: And who is that individual?

WHITAKER: It is the U.S. Attorney from the Eastern district of California who I've brought on...

CICILLINE: What is the name of the individual, Mr. Whitaker?

WHITAKER: His name is Greg Scott.

CICILLINE: So that's the - did you communication any information you learned in those briefings to other members of your staff?

WHITAKER: I don't believe so. No.

CICILLINE: Do you know whether any information that you learned in those briefings were communicated to anyone at the White House?

WHITAKER: As I mentioned previously, Congressmen, we have kept a very close...


CICILLINE: Mr. Whitaker it's a yes or a no. Do you know whether it was communicated to anybody at the White House?

WHITAKER: As I sit here today, I don't know whether it was communicated. I do not believe it...

CICILLINE: Did you put into place any restrictions or limitations or instructions to your staff not to share this information with anyone at the White House or the President's legal team?

WHITAKER: Yes, together with the general standard that investigative information and materials are need to know and law enforcement...


CICILLINE: Thank you, Mr. Whitaker. Did the President lash out at you after Michael Cohen's guilty plea for lying to Congress about a Trump organization project to build a tower in Moscow?

WHITAKER: The President specifically tweeted that he had not lashed out. CICILLINE: Did - did - I'm asking you, Mr. Whitaker. Did the President lash out at you? Not asking what he tweeted, I don't have a lot of confidence in the veracity of his tweets, I'm asking you under oath.

WHITAKER: Congressman, that is based on an unsubstantiated ...

CICILLINE: Sir, answer the question yes or no, did the President lash out to you about Mr. Cohen's guilty plea?

WHITAKER: No, he did not.

CICILLINE: And did anyone from the White House or anyone on the President's behalf lash out at you?


CICILLINE: Mr. Whitaker, did the President lash out to you on or about December 8th, 2018, to discuss a case before the Southern District of New York where he was identified as Individual-1?

WHITAKER: No, Congressman.

CICILLINE: Did anyone on the President's behalf either out - inside the White House or outside the White House contact you to lash out or to express dissatisfaction?

WHITAKER: Did they contact me to lash out?

CICILLINE: Yes, did they reach out to you in some way to express dissatisfaction?


CICILLINE: OK. Did you share the questions that Mr. Nadler forwarded you prior to this hearing with anyone at the White House or the President's Legal Counsel?

WHITAKER: Congressman, I did not.

CICILLINE: So when you claimed earlier that you were going to invoke a privilege, you were invoking a privilege about questions the President hasn't even seen?

WHITAKER: Congressman, to be clear, I'm not invoking any privilege.

CICILLINE: Well you said earlier that you - in your written testimony that you would not answer questions about your conversations with the President, did you not?

WHITAKER: Yes, I did.

CICILLINE: So you are not sitting here today saying the President has instructed you not to answer questions, correct?

WHITAKER: I am not sitting here today saying that the President has instructed ... CICILLINE: So then you're prepared to answer all these questions?

WHITAKER: Congressman, I think I was pretty explicit in my opening statement ...

CICILLINE: So - so have you spoken to the President, Mr. Whitaker, about the Mueller investigation?

WHITAKER: Congressman, as I have previously testified, I had - did not talk - talk to the President about the Mueller investigation.

CICILLINE: Have you ever spoken to the President or members - or parts of his legal team about information that you've learned in your capacity as Acting Attorney General related to the Mueller investigation or any other criminal investigation involving the President?

WHITAKER: Congressman, while I have specifically been saying that I'm not going to comment about my conversations with the President or his senior staff, I have also been very clear that the President has not instructed me to do anything ...

CICILLINE: That wasn't my question. My question is have you had conversations about what you learned? That's a yes or a no.

WHITAKER: Congressman, I have - I spend all day every day talking ...

CICILLINE: Mr. Whitaker, my question is very specific. Have you spoken to the President or his legal team about what you've learned in the Mueller investigation or with the related criminal investigations that may involve the President, yes or no?

WHITAKER: Congressman, as I specifically answered earlier to a question ...

CICILLINE: Mr. Whitaker, you're clearly not going to answer the question, so I'm going to move on. You know Professor John Barrett, correct?

But anyway, he - this is a - a law school professor who tweeted that you told him in June of 2017 that he was flying - that you were flying out from Iowa to New York City to be on CNN regularly because you were hoping to be noticed as a Trump defendant, and through that, to get a Trump judicial appointment back in Iowa.

You then went on to describe the Mueller appointment of the Special Counsel as ridiculous and a little fishy, that Mueller investigating Trump's finances would be going too far, that there is no criminal obstruction of justice charge to be had against President Trump, that there was no collusion with the Russians and the Trump campaign, that any candidate would have taken the same meeting as Donald Trump Jr. with a Russian lawyer, and finally, that a replacement for Sessions could reduce Mueller's budget so low that his investigation grinds to almost a halt.

You - you said all of those things and they're all in print, and it answers Mr. Deutch's question - the American people wonder just how is it that Mr. Whitaker becomes the Acting Attorney General of the United States in violation of existing statutes, was he put there for a particular purpose?

That wasn't a question, it's a statement, I yield back.

NADLER: I do observe that. The time of the gentleman has expired. Who's next? Mr. - Mr. Reschenthaler - Mr. Reschenthaler, you're recognized.

RESCHENTHALER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and thank you Mr. Whitaker for being here today. I just want to quickly reference the letter that was sent to you from the Chair on January 9th. In this letter, in the Chairman's own words, it said that this committee was here to quote- unquote "to conduct oversight of the department."

In this letter, there's also important and other topics that were supposed to be discussed here today like immigration, gun violence, the Violence Against Women Act, Obamacare, national security, and that's not even the complete list. I know you read the letter.

I was excited to be here, I thought these were critically important issues that affected constituents in my district and millions of Americans, and frankly a lot of these issues are life and death. So I'm really confused, as I sit here today in this hearing, with my Democrat colleagues focused solely on one topic, and that's the Mueller investigation.

I really hoped that my friends across the aisle would've used this opportunity for more bipartisanship and the last (ph) showmanship, but clearly I was wrong. With that said, I want to get to some of the important topics that we were supposed to have focused on today, one of those is sanctuary cities.

In my home state of Pennsylvania, the sanctuary city of Philadelphia has released at least three child molesters back onto the streets. And everyone knows the tragic story of 32 year old Kate Steinle, who was murdered by an illegal immigrant who was convicted of seven felonies and deported five times.

Now those child molesters in Philadelphia, the murderer of Kate Steinle, they were all released cause some city wanted to score cheap political points, and that's why I'm focused on ending sanctuary cities. Mr. Whitaker, what steps is DOJ taking to end the dangerous practice of sanctuary cities?

WHITAKER: Well first of all, we're ending taxpayer-funded grants to sanctuary jurisdictions. The Attorney General Sessions announced new conditions for our Byrne JAG grants that will increase information sharing between federal, state and local law enforcement to ensure public safety.

I don't know if the Congressman knows this, but one of the challenges we have is in a sanctuary jurisdiction, they - jails will release convicted criminals back into the community instead of informing Immigration and Customs Enforcement that the person is available to be picked up at the jail.

It is an incredibly dangerous situation to make an ICE officer go into a community to try to arrest somebody that is here illegally and has been convicted of a crime, often times crimes that - like you mention, and I - and I - and I cannot imagine a situation where a mayor or a city council or a county executive or otherwise would - would put law enforcement officers in harm's way.

It is quite frankly bad policy and we are going to work very hard to end it, and one of the ways we're ending it is by taking away the resources to those jurisdictions that have that policy.

RESCHENTHALER: Thank you, Mr. Whitaker. Mr. Whitaker, I have one more questions regarding the opioid crisis. This crisis is - is striking our country hard, particularly southwestern Pennsylvania. Data from 2017 shows it is more likely now that someone is going to die of a drug overdose than a car crash.

My district has been hit really hard, in particular Fayette County saw an 88 percent increase in over death - overdose deaths from 2015 to 2017. What steps has DOJ taken to address this shift and do you think that a lot of the problems that we're seeing in these stats comes from a poor southern border?

WHITAKER: To address your second question first, I do believe that most illegal opioids like fentanyl - non-prescription illegal opioids like fentanyl, heroin and their derivatives do - are imported through our southern border.

Some -- not a majority -- but some are also imported via direct mail. For example, an order off the dark net.

I went through a list of things that the Department of Justice is doing to combat this opioid epidemic. I hope that this committee, while it was something I was prepared and wanted to talk about and I'm -- and I appreciate the question -- we'll look at other ways that we can put resources into the opioid crisis. Seventy-thousand people, as you mentioned, have died of drug overdoses. A majority of those are from some form of opioids.

And we also, quite frankly, and I mentioned my trip to China last August, we have to work together with the Chinese government to reduce the inflow of fentanyl and we also have to -- we have emergency (ph) scheduled the fentanyl analogs but we need an act of Congress, and I hope that we can get that, to make that permanent. That these fentanyl derivatives and -- and creative chemists that change the chemical makeup of fentanyl do not continue to try to evolve their drug to avoid our regulation.

RESCHENTHALER: Thank you, Mr. Whitaker.

I yield back my time.


SWALWELL: Thank you. Mr. Whitaker, does your watchdog organization ever receive contributions from foreign donors?

COLLINS: Mr. Chairman, point of order.

SWALWELL: Ask to stop the clock.

NADLER: Gentleman -- gentleman will suspend. The gentleman will state his point of order.

COLLINS: Point of order and I'm going to go back to this and, again, (inaudible) the majority does not care but this is outside the scope of this hearing. This was not while he was employed here and whether he outside had donor or not during the time he was not employed -- making no connection either way is not inside the scope of this hearing and that's not the call of this committee.

Now -- and I -- look, I'm outgunned over here, I have no votes. This is not part of the call of the hearing. Mr. Swalwell (ph) there's plenty of things to do and Mr. Cicilline there's (inaudible)...

CICILLINE: Will the gentleman yield?


NADLER: Hold on.

SWALWELL: Mr. Collins, if you want to sit down there with his lawyers you can go sit down there but you're not his lawyer.


NADLER: Gentleman -- gentleman -- gentleman will suspend.

COLLINS: And neither are you, Mr. Swalwell. And if you ask questions...

NADLER: Gentleman...


COLLINS: ... That are actually a part of this instead of running for president down there we can get this done.

SWALWELL: You can sit down there, there's room.

NADLER: Both gentlemen will suspend.

(UNKNOWN): Mr. Chairman?

NADLER: The gentleman has stated a point of order. The chair will rule the point of order is not well taken. The scope of people's questioning -- we afford a wide latitude and we don't even know where it's going at this point. The gentleman -- so the gentleman's point of order is not well taken. The gentleman will -- will resume.

COLLINS: Appeal the ruling of the chair (ph).


NADLER: The gentleman appealed the ruling of the chair. The gentlelady moved to table. Move to table is not debatable, the clerk will call the roll on the motion to table.

SWALWELL: Mr. Chairman...

NADLER: Let's -- call the roll -- all in favor of tabling the resolution -- I'm sorry, all in favor of tabling the appeal of the ruling of the chair will say aye. Aye.


The ayes have it. The appeal of the -- the motion is tabled. Gentleman will continue.

SWALWELL: Mr. Whitaker, did your organization have foreign contributions?

WHITAKER: Just to be clear are you talking...

SWALWELL: Yes or no.

WHITAKER: What do you mean by my organization?

SWALWELL: You led an organization called FACT, did it receive foreign contributions while you were there?

WHITAKER: I don't actually know the answer to that. I do not believe, as I sit here today, that it did. But our main donor was a group that was a U.S. entity.

SWALWELL: When you -- did you interview with Don McGahn in July, 2017 to have the job that Ty Cobb would ultimately get?

WHITAKER: I ultimately did not meet with Mr. McGahn, so I met with his staff.

SWALWELL: Did you talk with him on the phone?

WHITAKER: You know, we actually never did end up talking on the phone either.

SWALWELL: Who did you meet with on his staff?

WHITAKER: I talked to Annie Donaldson from his staff, who was his chief of staff at the time.

SWALWELL: And when you talked to Mr. McGahn's chief of staff did you express in that conversation your prior views about the Mueller investigation?

WHITAKER: No, I did not (inaudible)...

SWALWELL: Was it brought up by the chief of staff? WHITAKER: In fact, at the time Congressman, everyone at the White House did not want to talk about the special counsel's investigation (inaudible)...


SWALWELL: But you were interviewing for a job that would respond to the special counsel's investigation, is that right?

WHITAKER: At the time I was interviewing for the position that was ultimately occupied by Ty Cobb (inaudible)...


SWALWELL: But I want to understand how you could interview for a job that would respond to the special counsel investigation but you were not to talk at all about the special counsel investigation? How would they know...

WHITAKER: Well I -- I said -- we didn't talk about it (ph) they did not want to talk about the investigation the -- the folks were dealing with that investigation and that's why they wanted to bring in someone that had been unrelated to the investigation and the campaign (inaudible)...

SWALWELL: Did they talk to you about your prior opinions about the Mueller investigation?

WHITAKER: No, we did not discuss it.

SWALWELL: Has there been...

WHITAKER: We discussed about my background as a United States Attorney and my legal practice.

SWALWELL: Has there been discussion at the department about keeping the Mueller report from going to Congress?

WHITAKER: No we in fact -- we're continuing to follow the special counsel regulations as it relates to the report. But we haven't received the report.

SWALWELL: Has there been a draft opinion about keeping it from going to Congress?

WHITAKER: You know, Congressman, I'm not going to talk about the kind of ongoing investigation that is the special counsel. I will share with you that...

SWALWELL: Mr. Whitaker, did Donald Trump as you if you would recuse before you became acting attorney general, if that question came up, did he ask you what you would do.

WHITAKER: Congressman, I've already answered that question in my opening statement.

SWALWELL: Do you believe Attorney General Sessions should have recused?

WHITAKER: As I mentioned in my answers previously, the recusal decision is ultimately...

SWALWELL: No, do you believe, yes or no, that he should have recused?

WHITAKER: I -- I actually as I sit here today I do not have an opinion. I believe he determined it was the right decision for him to make and -- and so I -- I agree that he made the right decision for him.

SWALWELL: Have there been any discussions at the department about pardons for Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, Michael Flynn or Michael Cohen?

WHITAKER: Congressman, we have a very well worn system for...

SWALWELL: That the president doesn't follow. But have there been discussions about pardons for those individuals that you're aware of? Yes or no.

WHITAKER: Congressman, as I've been acting attorney general I have not been involved in any discussions of any pardon even -- including the ones you're discussing.

SWALWELL: You made a public statement last week that the investigation was nearly complete. Is that your characterization or is that Bob Mueller's characterization?

WHITAKER: Congressman, that position that I mentioned last week in a press conference was my position as acting attorney general.

SWALWELL: Would Bob Mueller, if sitting before us right now, agree with you?

WHITAKER: No (ph). Congressman, Bob Mueller is going to finish his investigation when he wants to finish his investigation.

SWALWELL: Is Mr. Mueller honest?

WHITAKER: Congressman, I -- I have been on the record about my respect for Bob Mueller and his ability to conduct this investigation.

SWALWELL: Do you believe he's honest? Yes or no.

WHITAKER: I have no reason to believe he's not honest, so yes, I do believe he's honest.

SWALWELL: Do you believe he's conflicted? Yes or no.

WHITAKER: Congressman, as I mentioned regarding recusals, you know, sort of the conflict analysis is for the individual lawyer to make once a matter is before them. And I'm sure that -- that whether it's Bob Mueller, whether it's Rod Rosenstein, or anybody else (ph)...

SWALWELL: But the president has called him conflicted. WHITAKER: ... At the Department of Justice, (inaudible)...

SWALWELL: The president's called him conflicted and you oversee the investigation. Do you believe that Mr. Mueller is conflicted?

WHITAKER: Congressman, as acting attorney general I have followed regular order at the Department of Justice. And I have expected that the lawyers and support staff and agents that work for me follow regular order. And as I sit here today I don't have any reason to believe that.

SWALWELL: You -- so you don't believe he -- you believe he's honest, you don't believe he's conflicted. Can you say right now, Mr. President, Bob Mueller is honest and not conflicted?

WHITAKER: Congressman, I'm not a puppet to repeat what you're saying, I answer -- I have answered...

SWALWELL: Are you able to say it or do you not believe it?

WHITAKER: I have answered your question as to what I believe about the Special Counsel. I stand by my prior statements.

SWALWELL: Can you say it to the president, though?

WHITAKER: Congressman, I am not here to be a puppet to repeat terms and words that you say that I should say.

SWALWELL: Can you say that to the president?

NADLER: Regular order.

SWALWELL: Mr. Chair, he -- he hasn't answered that question.

NADLER: Sorry?

SWALWELL: He has not answered the question if he would say that Mr. Mueller is honest and not (inaudible) the president (ph).


NADLER: The time of the gentleman is expired. The witness may answer the question.

WHITAKER: I don't have anything further to add. I think I've answered the congressman's question.

NADLER: That's a question for observers. The gentleman from North Dakota, Mr. Armstrong.

ARMSTRONG: Mr. Whitaker, you've obviously been Acting Attorney General during some fairly interesting times, and we've heard a lot about that today. But I also want to commend the Department of Justice, the FBI, the White House, and all other law enforcement who was involved in the First Step Act. This is a tremendous shift, not just for the Department of Justice, not just for Republicans and not just for Democrats, and it's the way government's supposed to work. It's supposed to show redemption, tough on traffickers, organized crime, and also work towards a smarter way to deliver criminal justice, particularly with addiction-related crimes.

So my only hope is that, because it is called the "First Step Act," there will be a second step, and if you ever -- unfortunately, I have some other questions for you, so I...

(UNKNOWN): (inaudible)

ARMSTRONG: Anytime on your way out, if you have any advice on something Congress can do to continue this momentum, I would be very, very appreciative.

WHITAKER: Well you know, Congressman, I was involved on behalf of the Department of Justice in the First Step Act, and I just want to commend everyone on this committee that worked on the First Step Act to successfully get that passed and to get it through both the House and the Senate.

I actually know how difficult that it. I think one of the things that we could use your help on is to make sure you fund the First Step Act and -- and -- and what we've -- you've requested the Department of Justice to do.

You know, we continue to implement the First Step Act consistent with the law that you passed, and in fact just last night, we sent out guidance to our U.S. Attorneys Offices, how to -- how -- how to implement the First Step Act, and I know that the Bureau of Prisons as well is in -- is -- is implementing the act.

ARMSTRONG: And I -- I would hope to work towards having a federal- level pretrial release program to be available to every state and county courthouse across the country, because one of the great ironies I've always found about your pretrial release program is it is incredibly effective and then you get a 10-year minimum mandatory.

So the pretrial release program at the Department of Justice and U.S. Attorneys Offices across this country is phenomenal and they deserve to be credited for that.

WHITAKER: And as a former United States Attorney for 5 1/2 years in Des Moines, Iowa, I understand uniquely how pretrial release works, and so I -- you know, we'd be interested in your proposal and would (ph) look at that and work with you carefully to -- to try to implement something like that.

ARMSTRONG: Now in our role as oversight, I do actually have a question about something that has come up in the past and that, given the nature of the testimony today, very -- very possibly could come up in the future. And I think often when we have names like "Clinton" and Com -- Comey (ph) and Rosenstein and Trump and Mueller and Russia, we forget that the law is the law. You testified earlier to Representative Jordan that we -- that we prosecute crimes, not people. And I think often across this country we think laws apply differently to people depending on their status. And (ph) one of the areas where this came up -- and it was something that concerned me before I was involved in this -- is when we started talking about the difference between gross negligence and intent.

And it was in -- in a very particular statute, and we were dealing with it and there were members of the FBI and the DOJ that said -- that were concerned about vagueness (ph). But as far as I understand, in the federal code, particularly in the Federal Criminal Code, gross negligence has the same definition approximately everywhere in the criminal code, right?

WHITAKER: In my experience, your statement is generally correct, yes.

ARMSTRONG: So if gross negligence would be vague under one particular statute of the criminal code, then we should be concerned that it's vague under every other criminal -- other section of the criminal code?

WHITAKER: That is correct, and there's -- and for example, jury instructions that would, say, inform a jury as to how to evaluate a gross negligence standard to -- to convict someone of a crime.

ARMSTRONG: And assuming that it wasn't political in nature as to why gross negligence wasn't looked forward (ph) in any particular case, has -- under your leadership, under the DOJ, has anybody reviewed this, looked at it, and made any proposals to Congress particularly regarding whether or not we need to tighten up gross negligence language, not just -- let's say in the Espionage Act, but in any section of the Federal Criminal Code?

WHITAKER: As I sit here right now, I don't know the answer to your question, but I'd be happy to get back to you on that (inaudible).

ARMSTRONG: I'd -- I'd appreciate that. And then I'm -- just again, under normal course of order, I'm assuming it works the same as everywhere -- or, law enforcement agents -- and I know a lot of FBI agents actually do have law degrees, but FBI agents -- or, investigate crimes, and then it goes up the food tame (ph) to the U.S. Attorney's Office, but -- usually, maybe (ph)...

WHITAKER: Remember, I mean, you -- you need -- you need a predication to even open an investigation, and that's the step that I think a lot of people forget. I mean, there's many steps along the way, and when you conduct a criminal investigation, first you have to predicate (ph) the investigation, then it's -- it's investigated by the -- the -- the special agents that investigate the crimes.

Typically an AUSA is -- works with them to get, you know, search warrants the like. And then ultimately a case is developed and presented to a grand jury and that is charged. So I mean, you know, that's -- that's a -- you know -- and then -- and then again, I -- there's a discovery process and a -- and a trial process. It's a very -- very well-worn, and -- and to, you know, go back to something you mentioned earlier, Congressman, all of that is done at the Department of Justice without interference -- improper interference or interference based on a political nature.

ARMSTRONG: Well I'm just concerned moving forward that we have this -- I mean, everybody knows -- I -- and obviously this is hyper-tensions and hyper-political, but I'm very concerned moving forward that everybody knows what the rules of the game are as far as statutes are and that the law is actually applied in the way the law should be applied, because I do believe in the past it has not been, and obviously this is continuing to go on.

This hearing today is noticeable of that (ph). So on your way out, maybe it's the best time to deal with some of those things, because sometimes that's when the -- that's when we have the courage to do it, but this could very much come up again in future.

WHITAKER: Thank you, Congressman.

NADLER: The time of the gentleman has expired. The committee will stand in recess for two minutes. I ask that the members remain here if they can.



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: All right, as we are awaiting a little more drama, we've been seeing some here, as I bring my experts back in to discuss this testimony of Matt Whitaker.

What did you think? What really stood out to you, Pam?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: What stood out to me was the line of questioning about SDNY and whether the president lashed out at Whitaker. Whitaker said that, no, that he didn't, but, of course, our reporting is that the president did, in fact, vent to him. The sources described to us as lashed out to him --


KEILAR: Literally describe to you and Laura Jarret.


BROWN: Exactly. Me and my colleague, Laura Jarrett, did the story in December that the president was unhappy about the charges against Michael Cohen because the president was implicated in it, this hush money scheme in one of the court documents. So the president brought it up to Matt Whitaker on two occasions, also on Cohen lying to congress. But the congressman stopped short of asking him, did the president ever bring up the SDNY investigation to you or Michael Cohen. The congressman stopped short of that and that would have been a significant line of questioning because Matt Whitaker had denied ever talking about the Mueller probe to the president, but according to our reporting, he can't denial --