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 TrumpDemocrats' CNN town halls exposed an extreme agenda Buttigieg says he doubts Sanders can win general election Post-Mueller, Trump has a good story to tell for 2020 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 MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's investigation.

The leaders, including prospective Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiTrevor Noah on lack of Pelosi nickname from Trump: 'There is a reverence for her' Trump says he would challenge impeachment in Supreme Court The Hill's Morning Report - Will Joe Biden's unifying strategy work? MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerMJ Hegar announces Texas Senate bid Hillicon Valley: House Dems subpoena full Mueller report | DOJ pushes back at 'premature' subpoena | Dems reject offer to view report with fewer redactions | Trump camp runs Facebook ads about Mueller report | Uber gets B for self-driving cars Dem legal analyst says media 'overplayed' hand in Mueller coverage 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 SessionsTrump poised to roll back transgender health protections Trump claims Mueller didn't speak to those 'closest' to him And the winner of the Robert Mueller Sweepstakes is — Vladimir Putin 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 Jay RosensteinPoll: Majority says Barr's summary of Mueller report was 'largely accurate' Heavy lapses in judgment are politicizing the justice system Top Judiciary Republican reviews less-redacted Mueller report MORE.