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Trey Gowdy Urges Acting AG Matt Whitaker to Blow Off Congressional Testimony

Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker participates in a roundtable discussion.

See below for an update to this story.

Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker is ready and "eager" to testify before the Democrat-controlled House Judiciary Committee on Friday, but the committee's chairman, Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), has threatened to subpoena Whitaker anyway, "out of an abundance of caution," Fox News reported Wednesday. Former Congressman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), meanwhile, said Whitaker shouldn't bother because he's only going to be acting AG for about another week.

Democrats want Whitaker to explain his reasons for not recusing himself from the Russia investigation. Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions allowed himself to be pressured into recusing himself, which led to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein taking charge and appointing Robert Mueller to lead the special counsel Russia probe. Whitaker last week told reporters that Mueller’s probe was “close to being completed.”

Senior DOJ officials told Fox News the department had a “fulsome letter in response [to Nadler] addressing executive privilege.” DOJ officials said Nadler will receive the response letter prior to Friday’s hearing.

Senior DOJ officials also told Fox News they will be monitoring the committee’s markup hearing on Thursday, where the subject of a potential Whitaker subpoena may emerge again, adding that the acting attorney general has volunteered, and is eager, to appear at Friday’s hearing.

DOJ sources call the idea of a subpoena of the acting attorney general “unprecedented,” adding that the department’s Office of Legislative Affairs has never seen anything like it.

“When did we start subpoenaing witnesses who come in voluntarily? The majority had enough faith in its witnesses last week not to subpoena them,” said Ranking Member Doug Collins, (R-Ga.). “The key difference today is simply that this witness is part of the Trump administration—and now we’re setting a dangerous precedent. The message to witnesses here is, if you make the time and effort to appear of your own accord, Democrats are going to subpoena you anyway.”

Gowdy, who joined a private law firm in Columbia, South Carolina, after he retired from Congress, told Fox News' Martha MacCallum Wednesday evening that there are three reasons why Nadler would want to subpoena Whitaker.

"Number one, so you and I would be talking about it and others would be talking about it -- the acting AG being under subpoena," he explained. "Number two, it does compel attendance, but Matt's already said he's coming. Thirdly and importantly, what I don't think your viewers know, is that when Matt says 'I can't answer that question because it's privileged' or 'I can't answer that question because it's an ongoing investigation,' if you're under subpoena, it makes it much easier for the committee to compel you to answer."

"That's why they're doing it," Gowdy said. "They're not worried about him showing up—he's already said he's coming."