Asked whether he had ever been asked to approve any request or action by the office of special counsel Robert Mueller, Whitaker refused to answer.
“Mr. Chairman, I see that your five minutes are up,” he responded instead.
The hearing briefly went off the rails, with some in attendance jeering at Whitaker for the gutsy move.
Nadler revealed a look of surprise before laughing.
“I’m here voluntarily,” Whitaker went on. “We have agreed to five-minute rounds.”
Whether or not he would appear before the committee to answer questions about his dealings with the Mueller investigation was unknown until Thursday evening, when Whitaker finally agreed. He previously tried backing out of the testimony unless the committee’s members promised they would not issue him a subpoena.
In response, the chairman told the room: “I will point out that we didn’t enforce the five-minute rule on acting Attorney General Whitaker.”
Nadler then used the disruption to call a break.
After the hearing resumed, Whitaker made another reference to the official time allotted a member of the committee. (It is not unusual for questioning to expand past the official time constraints.) That member, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), did not laugh it aside.
“Mr. Attorney General, we’re not joking here and your humor is not acceptable,” she said. “I need to ask the question and I need to have my time restored so you can behave appropriately; I will behave appropriately as a member of the Judiciary Committee.”
This has been updated with an exchange between Whitaker and Rep. Jackson Lee.