With New Justice Official, Fate of Russia Probe in Question

Howard TerryNov 09, 2018

He also ran for Iowa Senate unsuccessfully.

Democrats poised to take charge of House committees come January are signaling that they want to investigate the replacing of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions with Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker.

When asked if he would fire Mueller, as some critics have feared, Trump said, "I could have ended it any time I wanted, [but] I didn't".

A spokeswoman for the Justice Department said that the acting attorney general - meaning Whitaker - is in charge of "all matters" within the department, including the Russian Federation probe.

Nancy Pelosi, who leads Democrats in the House of Representatives, called the decision a "blatant attempt" to end or impede the investigation.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had been overseeing the investigation, but Sessions' sudden ouster Wednesday means that baton passes to Whitaker. Trump is also mulling Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who is on her way out of office, as well as Trump personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and former Attorney General William Barr, who served in President George H.W. Bush's administration. "No one is above the law", said Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

"Why is the President making this change and who has authority over Special Counsel Mueller's investigation?" Whitaker has spoken critically about the Mueller probe and spoke in a TV interview about choking off its funding.

She went on to argue that, "given his record of threats to undermine and weaken the Russian Federation investigation", Mr Whitaker should follow in Mr Sessions' footsteps and recuse himself.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, who months ago warned Trump against firing Sessions, met with the President Thursday and said he had "confidence" Whitaker would do a professional job 'in this position'. Protest organizers-a coalition that includes MoveOn, Rise and Resist, and PEN America-will demand that the House Judiciary Committee immediately begin hearings into the president for obstruction, and that the Senate establish a "Watergate-type Select Committee" to investigate Trump's ties with Russian Federation.

The Washington Post reported that Whitaker has no intention of recusing himself, following howls from Democrats about his past statements on the special counsel.

The deputy attorney general appointed Mr Mueller to lead the inquiry after Mr Trump fired Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey in 2017. And he's one step closer to being able to do just that.

Sessions, fired by President Trump a day after Republicans lost control of the House in the midterm elections, left the seat in 2017 when he was nominated to head up the Justice Department.

Sessions clashed, though, with Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and senior adviser, resisting his proposals to overhaul the criminal justice system and standing by his hard-line approach to imprisonment and sentencing.

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