Acting AG Whitaker Consults 'Ethics Officials' on Recusal from Mueller Probe
Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker seeks advise on possibly recusing himself
The Justice Department has confirmed that Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker is currently consulting with "ethics officials" about possible recusing himself from the Mueller investigation into alleged Russian collusion by the Trump Campaign.
As Acting AG, Whitaker has been overseeing the special counsel's probe since he assumed the role last Wednesday.
Whitaker stood in as Attorney General when former AG Jeff Sessions "resigned" last week.
Almost immediately after Sessions was assigned the job of United States Attorney General in February 2017, he recused himself from the Russia investigation, much to the frustration of President Trump.
DoJ spokesperson Kerri Kupec said in a statement that Whitaker is now consulting with officials on matters that may warrant his recusal, saying:
“Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker is fully committed to following all appropriate processes and procedures at the Department of Justice, including consulting with senior ethics officials on his oversight responsibilities and matters that may warrant recusal.”
According to Politico, Whitaker has been overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation since last Wednesday, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ resignation triggered a set of events that left Whitaker, Sessions’ chief of staff, in charge of the inquiry instead of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Democrats have sharply criticized Whitaker over his numerous past statements questioning Mueller’s investigation, including suggestions that a possible Sessions replacement could slash the special counsel’s budget so low that any further efforts would cease.
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway stressed on “Fox News Sunday” that Whitaker had made the comments as “a private citizen” before joining the administration and when the investigation was just beginning.
With Jeff Sessions out the door, his temporary replacement, Acting #AttorneyGeneral #MatthewWhitaker, is now overseeing Mueller's #TrumpRussia probe and has expressed concern about political bias among the grand juries.— Neon Nettle (@NeonNettle) November 9, 2018
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Whitaker, a former U.S. attorney and frequent Republican candidate for political office in Iowa, also has a relationship with a former Trump campaign official, Sam Clovis.
Whitaker served as chairman of Clovis’ unsuccessful campaign for Iowa state treasurer.
Clovis, who served as co-chairman and policy adviser on the Trump campaign, is reportedly a key figure in answering questions about whether members of the Trump team conspired with Russian officials during the campaign.
President Donald Trump nominated Clovis to a top post in the Agriculture Department, but Clovis withdrew amid staunch criticism about his views and his connections to the Mueller investigation.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), who is expected to lead the powerful House Judiciary Committee when Democrats take charge of the chamber in January, said on Monday in response to Whitaker’s statement that he doubted that the acting attorney general would surrender supervisory duties over Mueller.
“He’s obviously not going to recuse himself. He should recuse himself because he’s prejudged the issue,” Nadler said in an interview on CNN, adding that the Judiciary Committee’s first order of business in the new year would be to call Whitaker to testify before the panel.