Acting AG will meet with DOJ ethics officials to discuss possible recusal

New acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker will meet with Justice Department ethics officials to discuss "matters that may warrant recusal" amid calls from Democrats who say he should step down from overseeing special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's Russia investigation due to conflicts of interest.

Since Whitaker's appointment last Wednesday, Democrats have called on him to recuse himself from the Russia probe, citing his public comments criticizing Mueller. Whitaker once declared there "no collusion" between President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Dems demand Barr cancel 'inappropriate' press conference on Mueller report DOJ plans to release 'lightly redacted' version of Mueller report Thursday: WaPo Nadler accuses Barr of 'unprecedented steps' to 'spin' Mueller report MORE and Moscow and said the special counsel's investigation was a waste of time that could be undercut by denying it funding.


"Acting Attorney General Matt WhitakerMatthew G WhitakerEx-federal prosecutor: 'Thank God' Whitaker is gone, Barr will bring 'integrity' back to DOJ GOP pollster says Dems are relitigating 2016 election with investigations of Trump Former senior FBI official calls Whitaker hearing ‘disgraceful’ MORE is fully committed to following all appropriate processes and procedures at the Department of Justice, including consulting with senior ethics officials on his oversight responsibilities and matters that may warrant recusal," Department of Justice (DOJ) spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said in a statement acquired by The Hill.

Whitaker once publicly suggested that the attorney general could cut funding in order to stifle Mueller's investigation, but Bloomberg reported Sunday that Whitaker has told associates in recent days that he has no plans to slash Mueller's budget. 

Trump, who has publicly criticized Mueller's investigation as a "witch hunt" for over a year, appointed Whitaker to oversee the probe last week after forcing the resignation of former Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsThe problem for Trump appointees Juan Williams: The high price of working for Trump Trump learns to love acting officials MORE, whose own recusal from the Russia investigation infuriated the president. Trump has repeatedly said he wouldn't have chosen Sessions for the job if he'd known he was going to step away from the matter.

Democrats have threatened to subpoena Whitaker and withhold key votes in the House if Republicans do not take action to protect Mueller.

Democratic leaders on Sunday sent a letter requesting a formal update from the DOJ's ethics office on whether Whitaker should recuse himself from overseeing the investigation.

"There are serious ethical considerations that require Mr. Whitaker's immediate recusal from any involvement with the Special Counsel investigation of the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election," the leaders, including prospective House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiDOJ plans to release 'lightly redacted' version of Mueller report Thursday: WaPo Pelosi accuses Barr of 'single-minded effort' to protect Trump against Mueller report Dems attack Barr's credibility after report of White House briefings on Mueller findings MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer slams Justice Dept over 'pre-damage control' on Mueller report Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Sanders welcomes fight with Trump over 'Medicare for all' | DOJ attorney in ObamaCare case leaving | NYC mayor defends vaccination mandate | Ohio gov signs 'heartbeat' abortion bill Dems see room for Abrams in crowded presidential field MORE (D-N.Y.), wrote in the letter. 

"We request that you immediately notify us in writing regarding whether you, or any other ethics officials at the Justice Department, have advised Mr. Whitaker to recuse from supervision of the Special Counsel investigation, and the basis for that recommendation," they wrote to the DOJ's ethics watchdog.

— Updated Nov. 13, 9:40 p.m.