Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker chose not to recuse himself from the Russia probe — even though Justice Department ethics officials urged him to step aside out of an “abundance of caution.”
Whitaker reportedly rejected the advice based on his own advisers’ opinions, the Washington Post reported.
Whitaker’s past criticism of the Russia investigation has raised questions about whether he can oversee it fairly.
One official said a recusal was “a close call,” but suggested that Whitaker remove himself, even though he was not required to do so.
Whitaker decided not to take the advice.
Whitaker, ex- attorney general Jeff Sessions’ former chief of staff, was pressured by Democrats, 18 state attorneys general and ethics officials from prior administrations to recuse himself to ensure that Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein remained in charge of the probe.
In an opinion piece Whitaker wrote last year, he argued that Rosenstein should “order Mueller to limit the scope of his investigation to the four corners of the order appointing the special counsel.”
Meanwhile, Trump’s nominee for the AG post, William Barr, wrote an unsolicited memo to Justice that criticized Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling — and shared it with Trump’s lawyers.
The 20-page, memo, sent in June while Barr was in private practice and months before he was selected by Trump for the AG gig, could factor into his confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee and may prompt questions about his ability to remain impartial.