Chuck Schumer, the top Democrat in the Senate, spoke with the watchdog for the Justice Department on Tuesday. His goal was to push for an investigation into communications that had taken place between acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker and the White House, according to a report by Business Insider.
Schumer has called on the Justice Department’s inspector general to take a look into the communication of Whitaker from 2017, when he was first appointed to the role of chief of staff to then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Whitaker was placed in the role of acting Attorney General after Sessions resigned his position early November, at President Trump’s request.
Writing to Inspector General Michael Horowitz, the New York Democrat made it clear that he wants Horowitz’s investigators to take a look into Whitaker’s possible access to confidential grand jury information regarding the Russia investigation being undertaken by special counsel Robert Mueller.
Schumer continued by requesting that the investigators look into possible sharing of information between Whitaker and Trump — or other members of his administration.
The spokesman for the inspector general, John Lavinsky, did not offer any comment in regards to the request by Schumer.
The second-ranking Justice Department official, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, was the man in charge of overseeing Mueller’s investigation into possible Russian interference in the 2016 election. Whitaker took over the role on November 7 when he was elevated to the position of acting Attorney General.
Since his appointment, Whitaker has become a target of Schumer and other Democrats due to comments he had made in the past in regards to the Mueller investigation.
Schumer wrote in his letter to the Justice Department, “I am also concerned that Mr. Whitaker, who has thus far declined to recuse himself from the Special Counsel investigation, may intend to interfere in or obstruct the investigation in other ways.”
Schumer had called for Whitaker to recuse himself from the role of overseeing the investigation following the acting Attorney General’s appointment, adding that he and his fellow Democrats would attach protections to Mueller to must-pass legislation — if Whitaker chooses not to recuse himself.
Whitaker had previously commented on the investigation in op-ed articles, where he claimed that Mueller would be operating outside of his mandate if he were to investigate the finances of the Trump family.
Whitaker had also made comments on talk radio about the claims of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign during the 2016 election, saying that there was no evidence of such.