The House Judiciary Committee prepared the subpoena, at the same time the Senate Judiciary Committee was supposed to vote to send the nomination of William Barr to become Attorney General to the floor shortly after 10 am Thursday. And Democrats made no bones about letting him know they were in charge now.
Nadler indicated that he'd be requesting that Whitaker sit for a closed door deposition with the committee - which would release the transcript when practical - and asked that Whitaker commit to appearing for it. Barbs were thrown; questions, dodged.
Concerns lingered among Democratic lawmakers whether Whitaker, a previously outspoken critic of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, hindered the probe or discussed it with the president.
Last year, Democrats and Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee said they would seek to hold former Trump adviser Steve Bannon in contempt for his refusal to answer questions in closed-door testimony for its probe into Russian election interference. He also passed up a chance to break from the president's characterization of the Mueller investigation as a "witch hunt", saying, "I think it would be inappropriate for me to comment on an ongoing investigation".
Its likely too early to discern the implications of these revelations.
"I have, as I mentioned, six days left and I plan to take full advantage of that, including, as I said, at this hearing", Whitaker said as the proceedings entered a sixth hour. Barr is widely expected to be confirmed.
Those conversations would fall under executive privilege.
Later in the hearing, Whitaker seemed to get his feet under him. "We're going to pursue them and we're going to show them that era is over".
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Before Whitaker even spoke, Nadler used his opening statement to press Whitaker personally, asking about finances.
Despite Whitaker's clear answer, Jackson Lee complained she wanted a yes or no answer, but Nadler indicated to her that the questions was answered, so she moved on.
Midway through the hearing, as Nadler asked whether Whitaker had ever "been asked to approve any action or request to be taken by the special counsel", Whitaker noted that Nadler's allotted time had elapsed, according to CNN. "But there were other questions he refused to answer". Whitaker eventually agreed to testify when Nadler said late Thursday night that he would not use subpoena him to compel his testimony on Friday.
"Before we adjourn, I want to note for the record, Mr. Whitaker, you owe us responses on a number of issues raised here today", said Nadler, who then rattled off several of the questions.
"It's shocking how nervous and unsure of himself Whitaker appears to be", Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor, wrote in an e-mail to TIME. "It's becoming a show", said the Republican congressman Doug Collins, of Georgia, who accused his Democratic colleagues of "character assassination". They were voted down every time, vastly outnumbered by Democrats. Whitaker responded by saying that he would not come unless the committee dropped its subpoena threat, which he called an act of "political theater". Nadler ultimately agreed with those stipulations.
"If he feels that a yes or a no is appropriate, he'll answer in a yes or a no; if he does not feel it's appropriate, he should be able to answer in the appropriate way, as many other Democrats have done before this committee before", Collins said.
"I fully intend to call you back for an interview, under subpoena if necessary", Nadler said.