Former federal prosecutor says he is 'greatly' troubled by Whitaker’s refusal to recuse himself

Former federal prosecutor Gene Rossi said Friday that he is deeply troubled by the refusal of acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker to recuse himself from overseeing special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerAn unquestioning press promotes Rep. Adam Schiff's book based on Russia fiction Senate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG MORE’s Russia probe, despite recommendations to do so by Justice Department ethics officials.

“In terms of his qualifications and his interests in certain matters and that he is a subject of a possible investigation from the fraud section of the criminal division troubles me greatly,” Rossi told Hill.TV’s Jamal Simmons and Buck Sexton on “Rising.”

“Why is he getting involved in matters that will raise within the public realm questions about his judgement, and that bothers me as someone who loves the Department of Justice and worked there for 30 years,” he added.

Whitaker doesn’t appear to have any plans to step aside from overseeing the Russia probe.

Multiple outlets have reported that the acting attorney general chose to listen to his own advisers and disregard the advice of an ethics official, who counseled that he air on the side of caution and step down over a potential conflict of interest.

Before becoming acting acting attorney general, Whitaker was a legal commentator and frequently criticized Mueller’s probe.

In 2017, the former U.S. attorney wrote an op-ed for CNN, titled “Mueller’s investigation of Trump is going too far,” in which he argued that the special counsel has “come up to a red line,” referring to Mueller’s examination of the Trump family’s finances.

Rossi emphasized that the decision over whether to recuse himself was ultimately up to Whitaker in the first place.

“It is in his purview, unless there’s a bar regulation or statute in the Department of Justice,” he said. “He does have the decision to say, 'I’m going to stay on the case.'”

Democrats have expressed concern about Whitaker’s past comments and criticized his decision not to follow the recommendation of ethics officials.

“Matthew Whitaker’s reported refusal to follow the recommendation of ethics officials further indicates that he views his role as serving President TrumpDonald TrumpPredictions of disaster for Democrats aren't guarantees of midterm failure A review of President Biden's first year on border policy  Hannity after Jan. 6 texted McEnany 'no more stolen election talk' in five-point plan for Trump MORE, not the American people,” Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSenate panel advances bill blocking tech giants from favoring own products Eight senators ask Biden to reverse course on Trump-era solar tariffs Lawmakers in both parties to launch new push on Violence Against Women Act MORE (D-Calif.) tweeted on Thursday.

Whitaker is expected to remain as acting attorney general until the Senate holds a vote on Trump’s pick to take the job permanently, William Barr. Similar to Whitaker, Barr is also facing criticism for previous remarks on the Russia probe. 

Barr, who already served as attorney general in the George H.W. Bush administration, sent an unsolicited memo to the Justice Department earlier this year claiming that the Russia investigation is based on a “fatally misconceived theory that would cause lasting damage to the presidency and the executive branch.”

Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinWashington still needs more transparency House Judiciary to probe DOJ's seizure of data from lawmakers, journalists The Hill's Morning Report - Biden-Putin meeting to dominate the week MORE confirmed receiving the memo, he but insisted during a press conference on Thursday that it had "no impact" on the ongoing investigation.

—Tess Bonn