House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi says she's open to stock trading ban for Congress Manchin: Biden spending plan talks would start 'from scratch' Reps. Massie, Grijalva test positive for COVID-19 MORE (D-Calif.) on Wednesday called for acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker to recuse himself from "any involvement" in special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerAn unquestioning press promotes Rep. Adam Schiff's book based on Russia fiction Senate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG MORE's Russia probe, which Whitaker has previously criticized.
"It is impossible to read Attorney General [Jeff] Sessions’ firing as anything other than another blatant attempt by [President TrumpDonald TrumpPredictions of disaster for Democrats aren't guarantees of midterm failure A review of President Biden's first year on border policy Hannity after Jan. 6 texted McEnany 'no more stolen election talk' in five-point plan for Trump MORE] to undermine & end Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation," Pelosi wrote in a tweet.
Given his record of threats to undermine & weaken the Russia investigation, Matthew Whitaker should recuse himself from any involvement in Mueller’s investigation. Congress must take immediate action to protect the rule of law and integrity of the investigation. #FollowTheFacts— Nancy Pelosi (@NancyPelosi) November 7, 2018
The appointment of Whitaker and the ouster of Sessions has elicited concerns among Democrats that Trump is taking steps to limit or shut down Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and any possible coordination with his team.
Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerDemocrats calls on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans Predictions of disaster for Democrats aren't guarantees of midterm failure Voting rights and Senate wrongs MORE (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday also called for Whitaker to recuse himself from involvement in Mueller's probe.
The Department of Justice, however, confirmed Wednesday that Whitaker will take over for Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinWashington still needs more transparency House Judiciary to probe DOJ's seizure of data from lawmakers, journalists The Hill's Morning Report - Biden-Putin meeting to dominate the week MORE in overseeing the investigation. Whitaker was named acting attorney general on Wednesday when Trump fired Sessions, who had recused himself from the Russia investigation over his role in the Trump campaign.
Whitaker has previously criticized the idea of Mueller's investigation and has suggested that funding for it should be slashed.
In an op-ed for The Hill published last year before Mueller was appointed, Whitaker wrote that calls for an independent counsel to investigate Russian interference "ring hollow."
"Serious, bipartisan congressional investigations into the Russian allegations have been under way for weeks and they have made progress," he wrote. "Hollow calls for independent prosecutors are just craven attempts to score cheap political points and serve the public in no measurable way."
And, in a CNN op-ed also from last year, he said that Mueller was close to crossing a "red line" by investigating Trump's finances. He suggested that Rosenstein "should order Mueller to limit the scope of his investigation."
Whitaker also raised the possibility that a replacement for Sessions could reduce Mueller's funding to the point that the investigation came to "almost a halt."
“I could see a scenario where Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsPress: For Trump endorsement: The more sordid, the better Those predicting Facebook's demise are blowing smoke If bitcoin is 'digital gold,' it should be taxed like gold MORE is replaced with a recess appointment and that attorney general doesn’t fire Bob Mueller, but he just reduces his budget so low that his investigation grinds to almost a halt," he said on CNN.
In July 2017, Trump's new acting Attorney General, Mathew Whitaker talked about possibly defunding the Mueller investigation pic.twitter.com/aZHP1K00rx— Robert Maguire (@RobertMaguire_) November 7, 2018