Whitaker laid the groundwork for a likely tussle with Democrats by saying in his opening statement that while he would address their questions, he would not reveal details of his communications with Trump. But when Jordan asked him whether specific names were in the document - which Jordan charged would go against Justice Department policy - Whitaker demurred.
"Mr. Whitaker, like everyone else at the Department of Justice, you are entitled to your political opinions", Democratic committee chair Jared Nadler said at the start of Friday's hearing.
Whitaker responded that he had been told by ethics officials that "the decision was mine to make based on the regulations of the Department of Justice, and I made that decision and I stand by that decision". The DOJ demanded a response from Nadler, in writing, by 6 pm Thursday'.
"I have been appointed according to the Vacancies Reform Act, and I have never appeared in front of Congress for any hearing, even when I was United States attorney", Whitaker said. "That would have been considered a development that I would have been briefed on and I was briefed on that".
He also said he had never discussed with the White House special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into potential coordination between Russian Federation and Donald Trump's campaign. After Jeff Sessions was sacked last November, Whitaker was raised to the role apparently on the merits of his history of denouncing the special counsel investigation on cable TV, and promptly refused to recuse himself from that investigation despite a top Justice Department ethics official advising him to do so.
House Judiciary Committee member Val Butler questions Matthew Whitaker. The panel had given Whitaker plenty of opportunities to prepare for the questioning, Nadler argued, but it was "clear" he hadn't. "We have agreed to five-minute rounds".
Raising his voice, Raskin cut off Whitaker before he could continue.
Democrats suspect Whitaker's appointment as the top judicial official was aimed at suppressing investigations of Trump, who has repeatedly called the Mueller probe a "witch-hunt".
U.S. Rep. Val Demings said the acting attorney general was "making a mockery" of criminal justice by deflecting questions about whether he ever discussed any criminal investigation involving President Trump with the president himself. Meanwhile, he could not have stated more emphatically that he meant to let the Mueller investigation run its course: "I believe it is vitally important that the special counsel be allowed to complete his investigation", he testified then.
In a letter, the heads of the House Oversight and Reform, Energy and Commerce, Judiciary and Intelligence committees said new records showed Whitaker did not return money to consumers who had complained about the company's practices.
Jeffries asked "how the heck" he became acting attorney general.
"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.