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 SessionsHow would a Biden Justice Department be different? Kamala Harris: The right choice at the right time Three pros and three cons to Biden picking Harris MORE, for whom Whitaker was chief of staff, resigned at President TrumpDonald John TrumpUPS, FedEx shut down calls to handle mail-in ballots, warn of 'significant' problems: report Controversial GOP Georgia candidate attempts to distance from QAnon Trump orders TikTok parent company to sell US assets within 90 days MORE’s request. 

Whitaker also wrote an op-ed for CNN last year in which he ripped special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout 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 ManafortTrump says he would consider pardons for those implicated in Mueller investigation Graham releases newly declassified documents on Russia probe The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Argentum - Mask mandates, restrictions issued as COVID-19 spreads 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 PelosiCongress exits with no deal, leaving economists flabbergasted Trump says he'll sign USPS funding if Democrats make concessions Pelosi calls Trump attacks on mail-in voting a 'domestic assault on our Constitution' 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 SchumerChuck SchumerIn the next relief package Congress must fund universal COVID testing Ocasio-Cortez's 2nd grade teacher tells her 'you've got this' ahead of DNC speech New poll shows Markey with wide lead over Kennedy in Massachusetts MORE (D-N.Y.) echoed in a statement on Wednesday.