Matthew Whitaker generated plenty of news for his testimony before congress this week, but one overlooked moment that seemed to generate little attention at the time may have revealed some of Donald Trump’s plans to issue pardons related to the Russia investigation.
The acting attorney general appeared this week before the House Judiciary Committee, where he was grilled by Democrats about his possible involvement with the ongoing Russia investigation. Whitaker revealed little at the hearing about conversations with Donald Trump about the probe, but did deny doing anything to impede Robert Mueller’s probe.
“I have not interfered in any way with the special counsel’s investigation,” he said, via USA Today.
Many believed that Donald Trump hand-picked Whitaker to replace Jeff Sessions because Whitaker had been vocally critical of Mueller’s probe and even spoke about how it could be thwarted by restricting funding. That had many Democrats wary that he would take actions to interfere, or at least to share vital information about the probe with President Trump.
While the hearing turned up no evidence to back up these fears, it may have done something else — showed Donald Trump’s plans to use his pardon power to help those caught up in the probe. The potential revelation came as Whitaker was being questioned by Rep. Veronica Escobar, a Democrat from Texas. As her time for questioning Whitaker was coming to a close, Escobar asked him one final question.
“Did you ever create, direct the creation of, see, or become aware of the existence of any documents relating to pardoning of any individual?”
After a short pause, Whitaker answered.
“I’m aware of documents relating to pardoning of individuals, yes.”
Escobar’s time expired before she could press any further, and Whitaker never returned to the subject to specify what plans he may have seen or who Donald Trump may be considering pardoning.
Oh my: Acting AG Whitaker concedes he’s seen the pardon paperwork https://t.co/VaElqEB8XF— Daily Kos (@dailykos) February 8, 2019
Video of the short exchange has now received viral interest online, kicking up speculation about whether the pardon is related to the Russia probe and if Trump could be planning on issuing it anytime soon.
she looks up at the end “I got him!” and discovers she’s all alone pic.twitter.com/KcQhD0D9bA— Adam Parkhomenko (@AdamParkhomenko) February 9, 2019
There have been reports that Trump was considering a pardon for his former campaign director, Paul Manafort, who is in prison after being convicted on a string of federal fraud charges. Last week, a prosecutor in Mueller’s office told a judge that Manafort may have lied to prosecutors in a bid to increase his chances of being pardoned by Trump, Bloomberg reported.