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House Democrats are summoning acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker to testify by the morning of the State of the Union in late January, rejecting a Justice Department plea to delay the hearing until February. In a letter to the DOJ on Wednesday, Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler identified Jan. 29 as the very last day the panel could hear from Whitaker, a critics of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation who has refused to recuse himself from overseeing the critical probe. Justice officials for weeks had hesitated to schedule the meeting. And Republicans on Capitol Hill have called Whitaker’s appearance pointless, arguing that the Senate is soon set to confirm his permanent replacement, William Barr. But the Wednesday letter shows that Democrats will not allow Whitaker to fade away without a proper grilling. And they’re intent on hearing from him about how and why he got the job, whether President Donald Trump asked him to end or limit the FBI’s Russia investigation and why he has ignored recommendations from ethics officials that he recuse himself from the matter. “We are willing to work with you to identify a mutually identifiable date for your testimony,” Nadler wrote, “but we will not allow this date to slip past January 29, 2019... As you know, it has been nearly 15 months since Attorney General Sessions testified before the committee. It is past time for the committee to conduct oversight.” House Democrats say Whitaker promised in November to appear before their panel in January. But since then, DOJ officials have sought delays. In response to a Dec. 21 letter from Nadler formally requesting Whitaker’s appearance, the acting chief blamed the government shutdown for his lack of appearance. Since then, Justice officials have also argued that Whitaker can’t appear because of his travel schedule in January. They asked to postpone the hearing until Feb. 12 or Feb. 13 — “so long as the Department is at least two weeks removed from a partial government shutdown,” the letter says. House Democrats rejected that argument, pointing to guidance from the DOJ Office of Legal Counsel from 1995 stating that officials may appear before Congress in a shutdown. Additionally, Democrats have winnowed-in on Jan. 29, noting that Whitaker will be in town for the State of the Union address. Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine]]>