Dem leaders request formal update from DOJ on whether Whitaker should recuse himself

Dem leaders request formal update from DOJ on whether Whitaker should recuse himself

Democratic leaders on Sunday sent a letter requesting a formal update from the Department of Justice's (DOJ) ethics office on whether President TrumpDonald John TrumpO'Rourke: Trump driving global, U.S. economy into recession Manchin: Trump has 'golden opportunity' on gun reforms Objections to Trump's new immigration rule wildly exaggerated MORE's new acting attorney general, Matt WhitakerMatthew G WhitakerEx-federal prosecutor: 'Thank God' Whitaker is gone, Barr will bring 'integrity' back to DOJ GOP pollster says Dems are relitigating 2016 election with investigations of Trump Former senior FBI official calls Whitaker hearing ‘disgraceful’ MORE, should recuse himself from overseeing special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTrump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony Kellyanne Conway: 'I'd like to know' if Mueller read his own report MORE's investigation.

The leaders, including prospective Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiObjections to Trump's new immigration rule wildly exaggerated Latest pro-democracy rally draws tens of thousands in Hong Kong Lewandowski on potential NH Senate run: If I run, 'I'm going to win' MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerLewandowski on potential NH Senate run: If I run, 'I'm going to win' Appropriators warn White House against clawing back foreign aid Colorado candidates vying to take on Gardner warn Hickenlooper they won't back down MORE (D-N.Y.), in the letter asked the DOJ ethics office to review Whitaker's past statements on Mueller and issue a recommendation about his potential recusal.

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Democrats since Whitaker's appointment on Wednesday have accused Trump of attempting to undermine Mueller's investigation by installing a Trump loyalist and Mueller critic to oversee the probe. 

"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 Democratic leaders wrote in the letter.

Whitaker has publicly said the attorney general could curtail Mueller's efforts by limiting his funding and criticized the concept of a special counsel in the first place. He has stated definitively that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, the subject of Mueller's investigation.

Whitaker also has ties to Sam Clovis, who served as a national co-chairman of Trump's 2016 campaign. 

After walking through Whitaker's possible ethics violations regarding Mueller, as well as his ties to a shady Miami business accused of committing fraud, the Democratic leaders asked the office to make public whether they have asked Whitaker to recuse himself.

"For these reasons, 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," the leaders wrote.

They also asked the watchdog to give them all of the ethics guidance they have provided to Whitaker so far.

Schumer over the weekend also pledged to tie a measure protecting Mueller to a piece of spending legislation that must pass Congress, according to The Associated Press

Pelosi last week said Whitaker's appointment to replace 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 "does violence to the Constitution." 

Trump tapped Whitaker to lead the Justice Department after Sessions announced that he was resigning at the president's request. Whitaker had served as Sessions’s chief of staff since September of last year.

He will take over supervision of Mueller's probe, replacing 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.