Matthew Whitaker likely never imagined himself in this position—elevated from relative anonymity to temporarily lead the U.S. Justice Department, staring down newly empowered Democrats from the hot seat in a congressional hearing room and fielding questions about his fraught oversight of the special counsel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

But there he was on Friday, filling in as the leader of the Justice Department and making an appearance, under the klieg lights of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, that had been in question just 24 hours earlier.

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