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Acting AG Whitaker fuels flimsy conspiracy theory that Mueller tipped off CNN about Stone’s arrest

Desperate times, desperate measures.

Acting AG Matthew Whitaker Testifies Before House Judiciary Committee Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

During his sworn testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on Friday, acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker lent credence to a flimsy conspiracy theory about CNN’s coverage of Roger Stone’s arrest.

Whitaker’s move to team up with ranking member Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) to spread a conspiracy theory indicates the extent to which Trump and his supporters are willing to go to suggest special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of the Trump campaign is tainted by political motives.

Asked by Collins if he is “familiar from public reports or otherwise” that “a CNN reporter was camped out outside of Stone’s house when the FBI arrested him,” Whitaker said he was, and that he finds it “deeply concerning.”

Collins followed up by asking if somebody at DOJ “share[d] a draft indictment with CNN prior to Stone’s arrest.” Whitaker didn’t rule it out, and went on to say, “I share your concern with the possibility that a media outlet was tipped off to Mr. Stone’s either indictment or arrest before it was made, that information was available to the public.”

The implication of Collins’s line of questioning is that somebody with Mueller’s team leaked news of Stone’s impending arrest to CNN, who responded by dispatching a reporter to his house. This conspiracy theory has also been spread by President Trump.

But the conspiracy theory was debunked even before Stone was arrested on January 25.

The night before, CNN crime and justice reporter Shimon Prokupecz explained that unusual grand jury activity indicated that Stone’s arrest was imminent. The network responded by having reporters stake out Stone’s Fort Lauderdale, Florida, home.

CNN ended up obtaining exclusive footage of Stone’s arrest.

Whitaker also confirmed he was briefed about Stone’s arrest before it happened. Stone was arrested wearing a “Roger Stone did nothing wrong” shirt, which raises questions about whether he was given some sort of heads up from DOJ that the FBI was coming for him.

“Mr. Chairman, I see that your time is up”

Collins’s line of questioning came immediately after committee chair Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) made Whitaker squirm with questions about his involvement in the Mueller investigation.

At one point, Whitaker admonished Nadler, saying, “Mr. Chairman, I see that your time is up,” instead of answering his questions — an unusual thing for the nation’s chief law enforcement official to do to a committee chair representing a co-equal branch of government.

Whitaker refused to answer questions about his conversations with Trump, citing executive privilege. During his opening statement, Nadler told Whitaker that his “failure to respond fully to our questions here today in no way limits the ability of this committee to get answers in the longer run, even if you’re a private citizen when we finally do.”

“The time for this administration to postpone accountability is over,” Nadler added.

The news moves fast. To stay updated, follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter, and read more of Vox’s policy and politics coverage.

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