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New acting AG once criticized idea of special counsel

New acting AG once criticized idea of special counsel

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker wrote an op-ed for The Hill last year criticizing calls for a special counsel to investigate possible collusion between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia ahead of the 2016 election. 

“Calls for an independent counsel or commission to investigate allegations that Russia tried to interfere with our elections ring hollow when similar calls for special counsels during the scandals of the Obama administration were dismissed out of hand by the same people making these demands now,” Whitaker wrote in May of last year, when he was executive director of the nonprofit Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust. 

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“Serious, bipartisan congressional investigations into the Russian allegations have been under way for weeks and they have made progress. Hollow calls for independent prosecutors are just craven attempts to score cheap political points and serve the public in no measurable way,” he added.

Whitaker was named acting attorney general Wednesday after former Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsGraham backs bill to protect Mueller Democrats in murky legal water with Whitaker lawsuits Whitaker’s past business dealings under scrutiny MORE, for whom Whitaker was chief of staff, resigned at President TrumpDonald John TrumpDeath toll in Northern California wildfire rises to 48: authorities Graham backs bill to protect Mueller Denham loses GOP seat in California MORE’s request. 

Whitaker also wrote an op-ed for CNN last year in which he ripped special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s reported inquiries into Trump’s personal finances and those of his family. 

“This information is deeply concerning to me. It does not take a lawyer or even a former federal prosecutor like myself to conclude that investigating Donald Trump's finances or his family's finances falls completely outside of the realm of his 2016 campaign and allegations that the campaign coordinated with the Russian government or anyone else. That goes beyond the scope of the appointment of the special counsel,” he wrote. 

“It is time for [Deputy Attorney General Rod] Rosenstein, who is the acting attorney general for the purposes of this investigation, to order Mueller to limit the scope of his investigation to the four corners of the order appointing him special counsel. If he doesn't, then Mueller's investigation will eventually start to look like a political fishing expedition. This would not only be out of character for a respected figure like Mueller, but also could be damaging to the President of the United States and his family — and by extension, to the country,” he added. 

Mueller was appointed by Rosenstein in May of last year to investigate possible coordination between Trump’s campaign associates and Russian officials during the 2016 presidential race. His inquiry has since branched into several other areas of interest, including obstruction of justice into an existing probe into the possible connections, payments made by Trump’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen and former campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortMueller targets Stone in final push 5 things to know about new acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker New acting AG once criticized idea of special counsel MORE’s foreign lobbying.

Whitaker’s past stances on the special counsel have led Democratic leaders to call for him to recuse himself from overseeing the probe, leaving it in Rosenstein’s hands.

“Given his record of threats to undermine & weaken the Russia investigation, Matthew Whitaker should recuse himself from any involvement in Mueller’s investigation. Congress must take immediate action to protect the rule of law and integrity of the investigation. #FollowTheFacts,” House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiGraham backs bill to protect Mueller Clyburn says some critics are using race to oppose his leadership bid Congress can unite on global affairs MORE (D-Calif.), who is likely to become Speaker in the next Congress, tweeted Wednesday. 

"Given his previous comments advocating defunding and imposing limitations on the Mueller investigation, Mr. Whitaker should recuse himself from its oversight for the duration of his time as acting attorney general," Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSunday shows preview: Trump taps acting attorney general to lead Justice Department Pro-Israel organizations should finally seek payback against Iran deal Dems Pelosi: Acting attorney general 'should not be there' MORE (D-N.Y.) echoed in a statement on Wednesday.