Early on in Friday’s House Judiciary Committee testimony of Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker, things predictably went off the rails, with Whitaker dismissing Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) questions and Ranking Member Doug Collins (R-GA) performing for an audience of one during his opening remarks.
Things got even nuttier when Collins got his chance to question the acting AG. Moments after Whitaker elicited gasps from the room when he attempted to brush off a question from Nadler by saying “I see your five minutes are up,” Collins devoted much of his time on a right-wing conspiracy about longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone’s arrest.
In case you already forgot, shortly after the FBI raided Stone’s home and arrested him last month, conservative media quickly latched onto a theory that Special Counsel Robert Mueller tipped off CNN ahead of time so they could capture live footage of the arrest. Even though CNN quickly explained how they were able to use grand jury information to connect the dots of a potential arrest, and the person who originally set off the theory walked it back, President Trump repeated the conspiracy while Fox News hosts bought into and amplified it.
Collins immediately began his line of questioning by asking Whitaker if he was aware of Stones indictment before it became public, causing the acting attorney general to say that was a development he was briefed on. The Georgia Republican then brought up CNN being at the location of Stone’s arrest.
“This wouldn’t be part of the investigation,” Whitaker answered. “I am aware of that, and it was deeply concerning to me how CNN found out about that.”
And down the rabbit hole we went. Collins said he was glad they were “going down that road” before asking Whitaker if anyone from the Justice Department shared a draft indictment with CNN before the grand jury’s finding of a true bill.
The acting AG replied that he did not know “not know of any other special counsel’s office notice or DOJ notice to media outlets regarding Mr. Stone’s indictment or his arrest” outside of the normal notification after the indictment was unsealed. But that didn’t stop the speculation from both Collins and Whitaker.
“It does seem concerning that given this reporter’s knowledge and other things, there seems to have been a gap in that discovery,” Collins stated. “Just another question. If anybody outside this, would you view this as a problem? I’m just going to ask you, in your final days here, would this be a problem for DOJ, looking at the timing, that it seems to appear this was given pre or prior knowledge. If it was given through normal channels, every media outlet would have been there.”
“I share your concerns that a media outlet was tipped off to either Mr. Stone’s indictment or arrest before that information was made available to the public,” Whitaker responded.
And somewhere, a Fox News host smiled.
Watch the clip above, via CNN.