Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker received gasps of astonishment when he told the head of the House Judiciary Committee at a testy hearing on Friday that his time for questioning had run out.
“Mr. Chairman, I see that your five minutes is up,” Whitaker told Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), a statement that drew groans and gasps at the packed committee hearing.
“I am here voluntarily. We have agreed to five minute rounds,” he added.
“In your capacity as Acting Attorney General, have you ever been asked to approve any request or action to be taken by the special counsel?” House Judiciary Chair Nadler asks.
“Mr. Chairman, I see that your five minutes is up,” Acting AG Whitaker answers. https://t.co/Ukgp5FywxQ pic.twitter.com/y4e9gkQeTh
— ABC News (@ABC) February 8, 2019
Nadler appeared to start laughing himself at what was a breach of protocol for a witness testifying before a congressional panel, as the ranking member of the committee said it would be a good time for a break in the proceedings.
Other lawmakers looked surprised at the quip. Rep. Jamie Raskin’s (D-Md.) jaw dropped.
@RepRaskin ‘s jaw dropped when Acting AG Whitaker told the chairman his “five minutes is up” pic.twitter.com/FxYJ2AvgkT
— Olivia Beavers (@Olivia_Beavers) February 8, 2019
Lawmakers routinely go over their five minute time limits for questioning, and it is normally up to the chair to limit the proceedings.
It is very unusual for a witness to mention the time limit, and even more so for a witness to accuse the chairman of a panel to have gone over his time limit.
Whitaker’s quip came after Nadler, the first to question the acting attorney general, asked whether he has had a role in approving any “request or action to be taken by the special counsel.”
In response, Nadler said, “The committee will come to order. I will point out we didn’t enforce the five minute rule on acting attorney general Whitaker.”