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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 TrumpIran convicts American businessman on spying charge: report DC, state capitals see few issues, heavy security amid protest worries Pardon-seekers have paid Trump allies tens of thousands to lobby president: NYT 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) MuellerWhy a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel CNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump MORE's investigation.

The leaders, including prospective Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiCowboys for Trump founder arrested following Capitol riot Retired Army general: 'We can't have demonstrators showing up at a state Capitol with damn long guns' Graham calls on Schumer to hold vote to dismiss article of impeachment against Trump MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerCowboys for Trump founder arrested following Capitol riot Graham calls on Schumer to hold vote to dismiss article of impeachment against Trump Biden and the new Congress must protect Americans from utility shutoffs 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 SessionsHarris to resign from Senate seat on Monday Rosenstein: Zero tolerance immigration policy 'never should have been proposed or implemented' Sessions, top DOJ officials knew 'zero tolerance' would separate families, watchdog finds 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 RosensteinRosenstein: Zero tolerance immigration policy 'never should have been proposed or implemented' Comey argues Trump shouldn't be prosecuted after leaving Oval Office Trump turns his ire toward Cabinet members MORE.