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 TrumpREAD: Transcript of James Comey's interview with House Republicans Klobuchar on 2020: ‘I do think you want voices from the Midwest’ Israel boycott fight roils Democrats in year-end spending debate 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 WhitakerFox's Kilmeade suggests David Bossie, Matthew Whitaker for chief of staff Comey’s confession: dossier not verified before, or after, FISA warrant Flake stands firm on sending a ‘message to the White House’ on Mueller 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 SessionsPresidential historian: Trump's actions may be 'definition of treason' if he knew about Russian interference efforts Trump admin seeks to roll back Obama-era policy on school discipline: report Trump: Sessions 'should be ashamed of himself' for allowing Russia probe to proceed 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 PelosiIsrael boycott fight roils Democrats in year-end spending debate McConnell predicts no shutdown: Trump 'flexible' on border deal Ocasio-Cortez had highest percentage of small donors in midterms: report MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerMake Trump own the shutdown over his ill-advised border wall More than a tantrum McConnell’s marijuana conundrum: Cory Gardner 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.