Whitaker Does Not Have To Recuse Himself From Mueller Probe, ‘CNN’ Reports

Matthew Whitaker appears in a suit.
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Amid the reports Thursday that President Trump’s nominated attorney general, William Barr, wrote a specific memo about Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation — there’s other news about the recusal chances of a Trump attorney general pick.

Matthew Whitaker, who is serving as acting attorney general following the resignation of Jeff Sessions last month, has been told that he does not have to recuse himself from the Mueller investigation, CNN reported, citing “a source familiar with the process.”

According to the report, ethics officials at the Justice Department informed Whitaker that his recusal will not be necessary.

Sessions, who served as a Trump campaign surrogate in 2016, recused himself from the Russia investigation early on. This lead to several months of fury from the president, much of it expressed from his Twitter account. With Sessions recused, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was left in charge of overseeing the probe, something he still does on a day-to-day basis — even with Whitaker in place, CNN said. Whitaker has been privy to details of the Mueller probe, but does not appear to have taken any steps to restrain it.

Whitaker, a former U.S. attorney, was Sessions’ chief of staff prior to his appointment as acting attorney general in November. Barr, who previously served as attorney general under President George H.W. Bush in the early 1990s, was nominated earlier this month to head up the Justice Department. Confirmation hearings for Barr are expected to take place early next year.

It was reported earlier on Thursday morning that Barr wrote a memo last summer to the Department of Justice, arguing that the potential obstruction of justice side of the Mueller probe — in relation to the firing of former FBI director James Comey — was “fatally misconceived.” Barr discussed the memo personally with the president. Barr is a noted believer in strong executive power, and the memo argued that firing Comey was within Trump’s rights as president.

“Mueller should not be able to demand that the President submit to an interrogation about alleged obstruction,” Barr wrote in the memo, according to CNN. “If embraced by the Department, this theory would have potentially disastrous implications, not just for the Presidency, but for the Executive branch as a whole and the Department in particular.”

The Barr memo could lead to controversy in regards to Barr’s confirmation. There is a possibility that he, too, could be asked to recuse himself from the Mueller investigation.