The Witness will Answer the Question: Whitaker’s Petulance Falls Flat in House Judiciary

 For the past few days, since the State of the Union address on Tuesday night, Donald Trump has been equating the exercise of Congress’ oversight powers under the Constitution to “presidential harassment” and even to war. But if Donald Trump is sending any signals through the petulant behavior of his Acting - and probably unconstitutional - Attorney General Matt Whitaker currently on display in front of the House Judiciary Committee, it’s not going well for him.

At the very beginning, after Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler finished his statement and asked Whitaker whether he has been asked to approve or disapprove any action taken by Mueller, Whitaker decided, instead of answering the question, to tell the Chairman that his time had expired. There was audible gasps in the room, and Whitaker asserted that he is testifying voluntarily and that he and the committee had agreed to a 5-minute rule.

Jerry Nadler did not get rattled, angry, or upset. He simply smiled, banged his gavel, and asserted his authority: The witness will answer the question.

Watch the exchange:

Most people in the media are talking about Whitaker’s fight, the much more important story here is the way Nadler - and through him, the House Judiciary Committee and by extension the House of Representatives - cut him down to size. After Whitaker’s jab, for that time, Nadler no longer referred to Whitaker as “General” or even “Mr. Whitaker.” He called him, “the witness”, and he ordered him to answer the question. He made it plain that Whitaker would not be given any special consideration of his belligerence. He was merely a witness in front of Congress exercising its Constitutional powers, and he was going to respect the authority of the Committee and of Congress.

Guess what happened next. He did answer the question, albeit somewhat vaguely. Go watch the hearing if you can. It’s still going on and is a beautiful display of Congress reasserting its role as the first branch.