FILE - Acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker attends a ceremony at the White House in Washington, Nov. 16, 2018.
FILE - Acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker attends a ceremony at the White House in Washington, Nov. 16, 2018.

WASHINGTON - The U.S. House Judiciary Committee voted along party lines on Thursday to authorize a subpoena in case acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker fails to show up to a hearing on Friday or declines to answer certain questions.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler said he hopes he will not need to issue the subpoena, which was authorized in a vote of 23-13, but that he fears Whitaker could dodge questions about Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation or his communications with the White House.

"This resolution merely authorizes the subpoena," Nadler said. "If Mr. Whitaker appears in the hearing room, as scheduled, and if he provides direct answers to our questions, then I have no intention of ever issuing this subpoena.”

Whitaker has faced criticism since Trump appointed him in November after ousting Jeff Sessions as attorney general.

Prior to joining the Justice Department, Whitaker made multiple negative comments about Mueller’s investigation into whether Trump’s campaign may have colluded with Russia.

He also has declined to recuse himself from overseeing the investigation after career ethics officials at the department urged him to step aside to avoid the appearance of a conflict.

Trump has denied collusion with Russia and has called Mueller's probe a witch hunt.