Saturday, 17 November, 2018

U.S. Attorney General Sessions Resigns, Throwing Doubt On Russia Probe

Utah Legalizes Medical Marijuana What will acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker mean for the Mueller inquiry?
Melinda Barton | 09 November, 2018, 04:11

By replacing Rod Rosenstein with just-named Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker as special counsel Robert Mueller's boss on the investigation, Trump has undercut the independence of the investigation.

Without Sessions' campaign or Russian Federation entanglements, there's no legal reason Whitaker couldn't immediately oversee the probe.

The Democrats, who won the House in the mid-terms, have vowed to protect it. Trump's advisers are privately expressing worries that the special counsel, who's been out of the news for the past month, has been stealthily compiling information and could soon issue new indictments or a damning final report. Senator Susan Collins and Mitt Romney said it should not be impeded in any way.

Whitaker has no intention of recusing himself from overseeing the Mueller probe, the Washington Post reported.

Mr Trump has vehemently denied any collusion took place, and repeatedly called for the inquiry to be shut down, calling it "the greatest political witch hunt in history".

The move, of course, set off fireworks among Democratic lawmakers.

Mr Whitaker has publicly criticised Mr Mueller's conduct several times since the inquiry began in May past year and taken the side of President Trump, who has frequently...

Her words were echoed by Democratic party Senate leader Chuck Schumer, who added: "Clearly, the president has something to hide."

She said the investigation into alleged Russian Federation collusion has been winding down for weeks prior to Sessions stepping down.

Activists are demanding that Whitaker recuse himself from managing the investigation as well, saying he has his conflicts of interest. In a shocking special election, Sessions was replaced by Democrat Doug Jones a year ago, after the Republican candidate, former Alabama Judge Roy Moore, was publicly disgraced when allegations surfaced that he molested teenage girls when he was in his thirties.

The counselor to the president went on to give credit to Sessions for his work at the Department of Justice, including cracking down on opioid abuse as well as the MS-13 gang.

Asked if that would be to dwindle the special counsel's resources, Whitaker responded, "Right".

A permanent replacement for Sessions must be confirmed by the Senate, which Trump's Republicans will continue to control as a result of Tuesday's midterm elections.

But if Mueller is still gathering evidence on other matters such as Trump's business relations with Russians going back before the 2016 election, Whitaker may be able to stifle that, ruling it out of the realm of the original mandate.

"If this wasn't about the Mueller probe, why install an Acting AG other than the DEPUTY Attorney General?" he wrote in a tweet. Mueller has already spun off two cases like this. As he steps into the new role, everyone is asking: Who is Matthew Whitaker?

Hours after Trump's tweet, the new Acting US Attorney General Whitaker in a statement said that he vows to uphold the rule of law and lead the Department of Justice with the highest ethical standards.

Those would be half-measures and insurance policies to limit damage.

In a letter saying a constitutional crisis was looming, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee demanded action from the committee's Republican Chairman Bob Goodlatte, as well as bipartisan legislation to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller from any effort to stymie the probe.

That nearly certainly wouldn't be the end of this story, but it's the beginning of a new, fraught chapter.