Schumer calls for investigation of Whitaker's contacts with White House

Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerAppropriators warn White House against clawing back foreign aid Colorado candidates vying to take on Gardner warn Hickenlooper they won't back down Trump ahead of New Hampshire speech: Lewandowski would be 'fantastic' senator MORE (N.Y.) is calling for an investigation into private conversations acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker had with the White House about 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 into President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump watching 'very closely' as Portland braces for dueling protests WaPo calls Trump admin 'another threat' to endangered species Are Democrats turning Trump-like? MORE's campaign and Russia.

Citing recent media reports, Schumer says there’s a risk that Whitaker, who previously served as former Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsLewandowski says he's 'happy' to testify before House panel The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy Nadler subpoenas Lewandowski, former White House official for testimony MORE’s chief of staff before taking his job after Election Day, may have tried to interfere in Mueller’s probe.

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“I am particularly concerned about whether Mr. Whitaker may have shared with the White House, or could share in his new role, confidential grand jury or investigative information from the Special Counsel investigation or any criminal investigation,” Schumer wrote in a letter Tuesday to Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz.

Schumer cited a report published by Vox earlier this month that revealed Whitaker frequently spoke by phone with Trump and White House chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE.

He also noted a New York Times report from Nov. 7 stating that Whitaker was seen by Justice Department officials as a partisan and a White House spy.

Schumer urged the inspector general to investigate whether Whitaker may have shared with the president or senior White House advisers confidential grand jury or investigative information from Mueller’s team.

“Unauthorized disclosure of such information—and especially to a target or subject in the investigation—may implicate criminal contempt of court, obstruction of justice, or the Department of Justice’s long-standing policy regarding contacts with the White House related to criminal investigations or cases,” Schumer wrote.

The Vox report, written by veteran journalist Murray Waas, revealed that Whitaker, while he was serving as chief of staff to Sessions, was counseling the White House on how the president might pressure Sessions and 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 to direct the Justice Department to investigate Trump’s enemies.

Trump in May asked the department to open a criminal probe into whether the FBI “infiltrated” his 2016 presidential campaign.

Schumer has asked the inspector general to find out what communications Whitaker had with the White House as Sessions's chief of staff and what issues were discussed.

He also wants to know whether Whitaker provided any assurances to Trump or senior White House officials about what steps he might take to interfere or obstruct Mueller’s investigation.