Over 1,600 lawyers sign letter saying Mueller probe must be protected

Over 1,600 lawyers sign letter saying Mueller probe must be protected
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The American Constitution Society Wednesday released a letter signed by over 1,600 attorneys nationwide calling for lawmakers and Justice Department officials to protect the special counsel's Russia probe in light of Matthew Whitaker’s appointment as acting attorney general. 

President TrumpDonald John TrumpFacebook releases audit on conservative bias claims Harry Reid: 'Decriminalizing border crossings is not something that should be at the top of the list' Recessions happen when presidents overlook key problems MORE’s removal of former Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsDOJ should take action against China's Twitter propaganda Lewandowski says he's 'happy' to testify before House panel The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy MORE is clearly a maneuver to obstruct or to end Special Counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerMueller report fades from political conversation Trump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony MORE’s investigation of possible illegal activities by the President’s campaign. The Mueller investigation has already uncovered serious crimes committed by the President’s closest associates,” the signatories said in the letter.

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“The Special Counsel’s investigations into Russian interference in our nation’s democratic processes must be allowed to continue. They must continue, even if they implicate persons or institutions connected to the President, to his campaign, or to his businesses."

The lawyers also warned about the consequences of eroding of the independence of prosecutors.

"To allow the independence of the prosecutorial function in this nation to be sacrificed, to protect the President, endangers the very rule of law, on which our nation and our Constitution are based,” the letter also said. 

The attorneys then demanded that Whitaker either recuse himself or be removed from overseeing the special counsel’s investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, while calling on Congress to pass legislation protecting Mueller and his probe. 

Whitaker was appointed after Trump effectively fired former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, ending an acrimonious relationship between the president and the nation’s top cop. Whitaker had been Sessions’ chief of staff.

Whitaker will replace Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinWhy the presumption of innocence doesn't apply to Trump McCabe sues FBI, DOJ, blames Trump for his firing Rosenstein: Trump should focus on preventing people from 'becoming violent white supremacists' MORE in overseeing the probe after making several comments in the past that were critical of the inquiry.

He touted in a 2017 interview that there was “no collusion” between the Trump campaign and Russia, adopting a favorite line from the president. He also said in 2014 that the courts were intended to be the "inferior" branch of government. 

Whitaker also wrote an op-ed for The Hill in May 2017 criticizing the idea of appointing a special counsel for the DOJ’s investigation.

“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 wrote.

His past comments led several high-profile Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerJohnson eyes Irish border in Brexit negotiations Lewandowski on potential NH Senate run: If I run, 'I'm going to win' Appropriators warn White House against clawing back foreign aid MORE (N.Y.) and current House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiJohnson eyes Irish border in Brexit negotiations Mueller report fades from political conversation Five key players in Trump's trade battles MORE (Calif.) to call for his recusal.

Meanwhile, the attorney generals for Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Delaware, D.C., Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, California, North Carolina, Oregon, Vermont and Rhode Island signed on to a letter echoing the calls made by the lawyers.

“As prosecutors and law enforcement officials committed to the rule of law, we believe that the independent Special Counsel must have the full authority to investigate and, if warranted, prosecute any violations of federal law,” the attorneys general wrote.