Acting AG Whitaker is consulting the DOJ’s ethics officials regarding whether he should recuse himself from the Russia probe, according to the DOJ itself:
POLITICO – Attorney General Matthew Whitaker is consulting with ethics officials regarding possible recusal from overseeing the special counsel’s Russia investigation, the Justice Department said on Monday.
“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,” Kerri Kupec, a department spokeswoman, said in a statement on Monday night.
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.
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.
I wouldn’t get to worked up about this. I think Whitaker is probably just doing his due diligence on the matter. Mike Mukasey was just on Fox News and said Whitaker’s got no conflicts and no reason to recuse himself.
Mukasey, rather, suggests that Whitaker could have other problems in the event of a legal challenge because he’s never been confirmed by the Senate for any position. And that legal challenge has already been announced by the state of Maryland:
Maryland officials will ask a federal judge for an injunction and argue that Matthew Whitaker is not the legitimate acting U.S. attorney general, the New York Times reported on Tuesday, citing a draft court filing expected in a healthcare lawsuit against the Trump administration.
The Times said Maryland officials on Tuesday were expected to ask Federal District Court for the District of Maryland Judge Ellen Hollander to determine Sessions’ legal successor as part of the lawsuit filed before the former attorney general’s ouster, according to the Times.
In the filing, the plaintiffs will argue that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein should have succeeded Sessions and that Trump overstepped his authority in tapping Whitaker, who served as Sessions’ chief of staff, the Times’ report said.
The president may not “bypass the constitutional and statutory requirements for appointing someone to that office,” they wrote in the draft, according to the Times, which obtained a copy.
But the White House is defending the pick:
“The president the Department of Justice leadership has confidence in Matt Whitaker,” White House communications director Mercedes Schlapp told Fox News in an interview on Tuesday, saying Trump had “full and legal authority” to appoint him.
Any ruling in the Maryland case, however, would likely not be the final word in the dispute as it could be appealed to a higher court.
I was hoping for a better ‘defense’ from the White House. Perhaps they are saving it for the courts…
That being said, Democrats clearly want Rod Rosenstein as acting AG instead of Whitaker. And they’ll probably get lower courts to aid them in their pursuits. Unless a higher court vindicates Trump’s authority here, it will likely go to the Supreme Court. Depending on how long that takes, we could have a new AG by that point. Trump has 52 seats in the Senate now and I expect McConnell would be able to force a hearing for the person Trump choses.