In a 17-page document filed Monday in the United States District of Columbia Appeals Court, Russia investigation Special Counsel Robert Mueller issued a thinly veiled warning to Donald Trump — Mueller remains special counsel and his investigation into Trump’s Russia ties and possible Russian collusion in the 2016 presidential election is not affected by Trump’s firing of now-former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Sessions had recused himself from overseeing the Russia investigation due to his own contacts with Russian officials while working for Trump during the 2016 campaign. Trump remained outraged at Sessions for taking himself out of the Russia probe, even though he was legally required to do so, as the New York Magazine documented.
The day after the 2018 midterm elections, Trump fired Sessions and appointed Sessions’ own chief of staff, former cable news pundit Matt Whittaker — an outspoken opponent of the investigation — to the acting attorney general post. On Sunday, Trump said that if Whitaker tried to quash the Mueller investigation, he would not “get involved,” according to a Politico report.
But if Trump is hoping that Whitaker will do just that, Mueller sent a clear message to Trump in his Monday court brief. “The elevation of Matthew G. Whitaker to acting attorney general does not affect special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s eligibility to lead the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, Mueller’s team said,” according to a Washington Post summary of the Mueller brief.
The brief was filed, specifically, in the case of Andrew Miller, a former aide to Trump adviser and friend Roger Stone, a longtime Republican political “dirty tricks” specialist who is under investigation by Mueller, as Vanity Fair reports, over his possible advanced knowledge that Russian hackers would release stolen Democratic emails during the campaign.
Miller’s case is challenging Mueller’s constitutional legitimacy, saying that Mueller has no right to issue him a subpoena. In his response Monday, Mueller — through his representative, Deputy Solicitor General Michael Dreeben — said that nothing in Miller’s case invalidates his authority to conduct the Russia investigation as he sees fit, and Whitaker’s appointment by Trump doesn’t either, according to Politico.
“The Special Counsel continues to exercise the same authority, and the jurisdiction of the district court and this Court is intact,” the Mueller brief, penned by Dreeben, said, adding that Whitaker’s appointment, “neither alters the special counsel’s authority to represent the United States nor raises any jurisdictional issue.”
As the Inquisitr reported, Mueller has reportedly already filed “dozens” of sealed indictments that would not be affected by Whitaker’s appointment, as they are already in the court system.
Whitaker has previously floated the possibility, in a cable news interview, that he would simply strangle Mueller’s investigation by reducing its funding stream to a trickle, according to ABC News. But Mueller’s brief says that Mueller remains independent, just like any other U.S. attorney.