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 TrumpCoast Guard chief: 'Unacceptable' that service members must rely on food pantries, donations amid shutdown Dem lawmaker apologizes after saying it's never been legal in US to force people to work for free Grassley to hold drug pricing hearing MORE’s removal of former Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsNadler sends Whitaker questions on possible contacts with Trump over Mueller probe Graham angers Dems by digging into Clinton, Obama controversies Martin, Bobby and the will to change MORE is clearly a maneuver to obstruct or to end Special Counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe 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 Jay RosensteinBarr’s first task as AG: Look at former FBI leaders’ conduct 5 myths about William Barr William Barr's only 'flaw' is that he was nominated by Trump 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 SchumerCongress: Americans in Puerto Rico still need our help Airbnb is doing the Democrats' dirty work Protecting our judiciary must be a priority in the 116th Congress MORE (N.Y.) and current House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiBudowsky: Pelosi can break shutdown stalemate GOP seeks to change narrative in shutdown fight Poll shows 25 percent view McConnell favorably, lowest among leaders in survey 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.