Attorney General Matthew Whitaker is consulting ethics officials regarding potential recusal from overseeing the special counsel’s Russia evaluation, the Justice Department said on Monday.
“Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker is entirely committed to following all proper procedures and processes in the Department of Justice, such as consulting senior ethics officials onto his own supervision responsibilities and issues which could warrant recusal,” Kerri Kupec, a department spokeswoman, said in an announcement on Monday night.
Whitaker was overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation since last Wednesday, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ resignation triggered a set of events which abandoned Whitaker, Sessions’ chief of staff, in charge of the question rather than Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Democrats have sharply criticized Whitaker within his several previous statements questioning Mueller’s evaluation, such as proposals a potential Sessions replacement may slash the special counsel’s budget so low that some additional attempts would stop. White House advisor Kellyanne Conway worried on”Fox News Sunday” that Whitaker had made the remarks as “a private citizen” prior to joining the government and as soon as the investigation was only beginning.
Whitaker, a former U.S. lawyer and regular Republican candidate for political office in Iowa, has a connection with a former Trump effort official, Sam Clovis. Whitaker served as chairman of Clovis’ unsuccessful campaign for Iowa state treasurer.
Clovis, who functioned as co-chairman and policy advisor on the Trump effort, is allegedly an integral figure in answering questions regarding whether members of the Trump team conspired with Russian officials throughout the effort. President Donald Trump nominated Clovis to a leading post from the Agriculture Department, but Clovis withdrew amid staunch criticism about his opinions and his relations into the Mueller investigation.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), who’s predicted to direct the powerful House Judiciary Committee when Democrats take responsibility for the room in January, said on Monday in reaction to Whitaker’s announcement he doubted the acting attorney general would cancel supervisory duties over Mueller.
“He is definitely not going to recuse himself. He must recuse himself since he is prejudged the problem,” Nadler said in an interview on CNN, adding that the Judiciary Committee’s first order of business in the new year is to telephone Whitaker to testify before the board.