His expected testimony before the House Judiciary Committee has been the hottest ticket all week in Washington but for much of Thursday it was unclear whether Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker would even show up for Friday's hearing, before panel chairman Jerry Nadler confirmed Whitaker will be there after all.
This after an extraordinary back and forth clash between Whitaker and Democrat Nadler over the threat of a subpoena compelling Whitaker to appear.
The subpoena was authorized by Nadler's panel on Thursday morning.
In response, Whitaker fired off a letter to Nadler saying he would not testify with a subpoena threat hanging over his head… giving Nadler a deadline to withdraw the threat.
Nadler late Thursday told Whitaker the committee would work with him on specific questions… but did not take a possible subpoena off the table, leaving the two sides in an icy standoff.
Democrats on the Committee want to ask Whitaker about Robert Mueller's probe of Russia's role in the 2016 election, which Whitaker oversees, and about any communications he's had about it with President Trump.
Asked about the standoff, President Trump praised his acting attorney general.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, SAYING: "He's an outstanding person.
I would say, if he did testify, he'd do very well.
He's an outstanding person.
A very, very fine man." President Trump tapped Whitaker to be acting head of the Justice Department last year after the firing of Jeff Sessions, who had recused himself from the Mueller probe... much to Trump's fury.
Whitaker had criticized Mueller's probe multiple times before taking up his duties.
Mueller has been investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 elections and whether Trump's campaign may have colluded with Moscow, which Trump has denied.
The clash erupted hours after the Senate Judiciary Committee voted Thursday to advance the nomination of William Barr, who would replace Whitaker as the nation's Attorney General.