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 TrumpDemocrat calls on White House to withdraw ambassador to Belarus nominee TikTok collected data from mobile devices to track Android users: report Peterson wins Minnesota House primary in crucial swing district MORE’s removal of former Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsKamala Harris: The right choice at the right time Three pros and three cons to Biden picking Harris The 'pitcher of warm spit' — Veepstakes and the fate of Mike Pence MORE is clearly a maneuver to obstruct or to end 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 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 RosensteinFBI officials hid copies of Russia probe documents fearing Trump interference: book Sally Yates to testify as part of GOP probe into Russia investigation Graham releases newly declassified documents on Russia probe 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 SchumerChuck SchumerLawmakers push Trump to restore full funding for National Guards responding to pandemic Bipartisan senators ask congressional leadership to extend census deadline Lawmakers of color urge Democratic leadership to protect underserved communities in coronavirus talks MORE (N.Y.) and current House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiKamala Harris makes history — as a Westerner On The Money: McConnell says it's time to restart coronavirus talks | New report finds majority of Americans support merger moratorium | Corporate bankruptcies on pace for 10-year high McConnell: Time to restart coronavirus talks 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.