News & Politics

Acting AG Whitaker Snaps at Dem. Rep. Swalwell: 'I'm Not a Puppet!'

Acting AG Whitaker Snaps at Dem. Rep. Swalwell: 'I'm Not a Puppet!'
Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker lost patience with Rep. Eric Swalwell’s line of questioning Friday, snapping that he’s “not a puppet” after the Democrat tried to force him to say that special counsel Robert Mueller is “honest and not conflicted.”

Swalwell (D-Calf.) asked Whitaker at a House Judiciary Committee hearing, “Can you say right now, ‘Mr. President, Bob Mueller is honest and not conflicted’?”

“Congressman, I am not a puppet to repeat what you’re saying,” Whitaker replied testily.

“Are you able to say it or do you not believe it?” Swalwell pressed.

“I have answered your question as to what I believe about the special counsel,” Whitaker replied wearily.

The president has frequently referred to the special counsel investigation as a “witch hunt” and has called Mueller a “conflicted” prosecutor gone rogue.

The acting attorney general had already stated that he believes that Mueller is honest, but put his foot down when Swalwell continued to harp on the issue.

“Can you say it to the president though?” Swalwell insisted.

“Congressman, I am not here to be a puppet to repeat terms and words that you say that I should say,” Whitaker said.

“Can you say that to the president?” Swalwell repeated.

Whitaker sat quietly with his hands clasped, looking straight ahead.

“Mr. Chair, he hasn’t answered that question,” Swalwell complained. “He has not answered the question if he would say that Mr. Mueller is honest and not conflicted …”

“I don’t have anything further to add. I think I’ve answered the congressman’s question,” Whitaker said shortly.

Whitaker’s term as acting attorney general is set to end when William Barr, Trump’s nominee for attorney general, is confirmed in a week or so.

Whitaker, who previously served as former Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ chief of staff, took over as acting attorney general last November after his boss was forced from the position.