Acting AG Whitaker reportedly doesn’t have to recuse himself from Mueller probe
Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker reportedly will not have to recuse himself from continuing to oversee special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigations.
CNN reported that Whitaker, who was appointed last month to temporarily lead the Justice Department, has been told by department ethics officials that he can continue to supervise the probes. The investigations include whether Whitaker’s boss, President Donald Trump, tried to obstruct justice in Mueller’s inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
CNN said Whitaker would inform senators of the advice from ethics officials later Thursday.
NBC News soon confirmed the story soon afterward.
Whitaker’s previous criticisms of Mueller’s probe have worried several members of Congress, who question his ability to fairly oversee the special counsel’s office.
The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment by Imagala.com.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who had been overseeing the Muller probes before Whitaker’s appointment, was asked at a press conference Thursday what his current role is.
“We’ll have more for you on that later today,” Rosenstein said.
“In terms of my role, as we’ve described previously, we’ve continued to manage the investigation as we have in the past — and it’s being handled appropriately,” Rosenstein said.
“Whether it’s Bob Mueller or Rod Rosenstein or Matt Whitaker or Bill Barr, that investigation’s going to be handled appropriately by the Department of Justice.”
Rosenstein was also asked whether he believed, as some congressional lawmakers have argued, that legislation should be passed to protect Mueller from being fired. He also was asked if he thought Mueller’s probe is under threat. Trump has repeatedly railed against Mueller’s investigation as a “witch hunt.”
“The investigation is being conducted in accordance with the department regulation, and nothing anybody says is going to affect that,” Rosentein said. “So I believe that that investigation is being handled appropriately under the existing department regulations.”
Trump fired Whitaker’s predecessor, Jeff Sessions, last month after ripping Sessions numerous times for recusing himself from the Russia probe.
Mueller, a former FBI director, was brought in by the Justice Department to handle the existing Russian inquiry after after Sessions recused himself from any involvement in that probe because of his own contact with Russia’s ambassador prior to the election while supporting Trump’s candidacy.
Trump has nominated William Barr, a lawyer in private practice, to be his next attorney general. Barr, who in that position would have oversight over Mueller, previously served as attorney general under President George H.W. Bush.
Also Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called on Trump to reconsider his nomination of Barr. Schumer said Barr should not allowed to be attorney general because he wrote an unsolicited memo to the Justice Department claiming that Mueller’s obstruction of justice inquiry was based on a “fatally misconceived” theory.
“As I understand it, his theory is premised on a novel and legally insupportable reading of the law,” Barr wrote in that memo this year, according to The Wall Street Journal.
“Moreover, in my view, if credited by the Justice Department, it would have grave consequences far beyond the immediate confines of this case and would do lasting damage to the Presidency and to the administration of law within the Executive branch,” Barr wrote.
Schumer, in a statement Thursday, said, “Mr. Barr’s memo reveals that he is fatally conflicted from being able to oversee the Special Counsel’s investigation and he should not be nominated to be attorney general.”
“Mr. Barr believes presidents in general — and more frighteningly, President Trump, who has shown less respect for the rule of law than any president — are above the law,” Schumer said. “The fact that he holds these deeply misguided views and chose to launch them in an unprovoked written attack on the Special Counsel unquestionably disqualifies Mr. Barr from serving as attorney general again.”