Top Democrats demanded that Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker recuse himself from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, citing hostile statements toward the probe and alleging he has multiple conflicts of interest.
In an emailed letter to Assistant Attorney General Lee Lofthus, the Department of Justice’s chief ethics official, House and Senate lawmakers said Whitaker’s past statements “indicate a clear bias against the investigation,” and that his relationship with a grand jury witness in the probe raises “additional concerns about his ability to supervise the investigation independently and impartially.”
The lawmakers, including Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein and House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler, demanded that Lofthus immediately tell them whether he’s advised Whitaker to step aside on the Mueller investigation.
Power to Halt
Whitaker has come under increasing scrutiny for openly criticizing Mueller’s Russia investigation in the past because he now has the power to hobble or halt the probe. President Donald Trump named Whitaker as acting attorney general on Nov. 7 after forcing former Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign.
“The facts for recusal are very strong here,” said Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California who’s expected to lead the House Intelligence Committee. “This is someone who’s made repeated and prejudicial comments against the investigation,” Schiff said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Democrats vowed to investigate Whitaker if he doesn’t recuse himself. The House Judiciary Committee will summon Whitaker — by subpoena if necessary — to examine his “expressed hostility to the investigation,” said Nadler, the New York Democrat poised to lead the panel.
Given Whitaker’s open criticism of the probe, “how he can possibly supervise it?” Nadler asked rhetorically on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
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SOURCE: Bloomberg, Anna Molin and Jennifer A. Dlouhy