With New Justice Official, Fate of Russia Probe in Question

Cheryl Sanders
November 9, 2018

New Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker, whose appointment means he will supervise special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, has a personal tie to one of the witnesses in the probe: Whitaker was the campaign chairman for Sam Clovis in 2014 when Clovis ran for state treasurer in Iowa.

At a testy White House news conference earlier Wednesday, Trump said he could end the Mueller investigation "right now", but "I stay away from it". In a shocking special election, Sessions was replaced by Democrat Doug Jones previous year, after the Republican candidate, former Alabama Judge Roy Moore, was publicly disgraced when allegations surfaced that he molested teenage girls when he was in his thirties. If Mr Mueller files a report detailing his conclusions, the new acting attorney general could keep the document from ever becoming public.

"Congress must take bipartisan action to protect the integrity of Special Counsel Mueller's investigation", said Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House of Representatives, hours after Democrats won a House majority in Tuesday's elections. Whitaker was Sessions' chief of staff and outwardly criticized Mueller's investigation.

Asked whether Whitaker would assume control over Mueller's investigation, Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Flores said Whitaker would be "in charge of all matters under the purview of the Department of Justice".

A spokesman for Mueller's office declined to comment on Sessions' departure. Whitaker was a vocal critic of the investigation prior to his appointment.


Whitaker so far hasn't said much about his outlook for the Justice Department or the special counsel investigation; Rosenstein hasn't spoken publicly either since Sessions' dismissal. Under those rules, he could only be discharged for good cause, such as misconduct or dereliction of duty, such as violating department policy.

Trump has told confidants he remains deeply annoyed by the 18-month-old Mueller probe, believing it is not just a "witch hunt" but an expensive and lengthy negative distraction.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions was pushed out after enduring more than a year of blistering and personal attacks from President Donald Trump, who inserted in his place a Republican Party loyalist with authority to oversee the remainder of the special counsel's Russian Federation investigation.

Before he became Sessions' chief of staff, Whitaker was an accomplished athlete and attorney in Iowa.

Flores did not directly answer questions about whether Whitaker had consulted or planned to consult Justice Department ethics experts on whether he should recuse himself from the Russian Federation probe.


The Mueller probe should not extend to the finances of Trump, his family or their business, the Trump Organization, he argued.

Jerry Nadler, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, said he wants "answers immediately" and "we will hold people accountable".

The White House is bracing for the probe of Donald Trump's presidential campaign to fire up again.

"If this wasn't about the Mueller probe, why install an Acting AG other than the DEPUTY Attorney General?" he wrote in a tweet.

He also worked on an earlier campaign in Iowa for one of Trump's presidential campaign leaders, Sam Clovis, who has figured in the Russian Federation investigation.


Trump was only a few weeks into his presidency in March 2017 when Sessions upset him by stepping aside from overseeing an Federal Bureau of Investigation probe of potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow, citing news reports of previously undisclosed meetings he had with Russia's ambassador to Washington for his recusal.

Other reports by iNewsToday

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