Trump's acting AG 'blatantly lied to Congress' and testified again because he feared could go to prison: MSNBC panel

Trump's acting AG 'blatantly lied to Congress' and testified again because he feared could go to prison: MSNBC panel
PBS Newshour

Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), the chairman of House Judiciary Committee, revealed Wednesday that President Donald Trump's former Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker appeared to be changing his story in closed testimony after his comments to lawmakers at a previous hearing raised serious questions about his honesty.

"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," Nadler told the press. "While he was acting attorney general, Mr. Whitaker was directly involved in conversations about whether to fire one or more U.S. attorneys."

He added: "While he was acting attorney general, Mr. Whitaker was involved in conversations about the scope of the Southern District of New York U.S. Attorney Berman's recusal and whether the Southern district went too far in pursuing the campaign finance case in which the president was listed as individual-1."

Whitaker has since been replaced as attorney general by William Barr, who was confirmed by the Senate. But these revelations suggest, as many have suspected, that Trump tried to use Whitaker to gain control over the investigations encircling him in what may have been a massive abuse of power and potentially obstruction of justice. In addition to that, Whitaker's new admissions may be in conflict with his prior testimony to Congress.

Reacting on MSNBC's "Deadline: White House," panelists were blown away by what Nadler's revelations seemed to imply.

"At this stage, we should expect that plenty of  Trump officials are lying to us," said Time's Elise Jordan. "But it's still jaw-dropping to me that the acting attorney general of the United States blatantly lied to Congress and was concerned enough about going to prison that he came back a week later to do clean-up."

"This is what the president always wanted," said Jason Johnson, editor of "The Root." "He basically wanted the attorney general to be his personal lawyer at taxpayers' expense."

He added that Whitaker should experience the "full legal consequences for what he did," including losing his law license.

"I hope that everybody else in this administration who sells their soul and sells their commitment to the law to cover for this guy faces serious consequences," Johnson added.

Separately, former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti noted on Twitter that even if Whitaker did essentially lie to Congress, he's unlikely in serious danger of a perjury charge at this point.

"Whitaker used words that gave him some wiggle room when he testified publicly, and Members did not follow up when he did so," said Mariotti. "I suspect he will rely on that wiggle room to rebut allegations that he lied to Congress."

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