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 TrumpJustice Department preparing for Mueller report as soon as next week: reports Smollett lawyers declare 'Empire' star innocent Pelosi asks members to support resolution against emergency declaration 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 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 PelosiWhy Omar’s views are dangerous Pelosi asks members to support resolution against emergency declaration Overnight Defense: Graham clashed with Pentagon chief over Syria | Talk grows that Trump will fire Coats | Coast Guard officer accused of domestic terrorism plot MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerGOP Green New Deal stunt is a great deal for Democrats National emergency declaration — a legal fight Trump is likely to win House Judiciary Dems seek answers over Trump's national emergency declaration 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 SessionsDems seize on Times bombshell to push allegations of Trump obstruction Mueller report may be 'anti-climactic,' says ex-intelligence director CNN ripped for hiring former Republican operative as political editor: 'WTF?!?!' 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 RosensteinDems seize on Times bombshell to push allegations of Trump obstruction Trump calls Andrew McCabe a 'poor man's J. Edgar Hoover' CNN: DOJ preparing to announce end of Mueller probe as soon as next week MORE.