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Matthew Whitaker has a tangled history with the Mueller probe



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by Ken Dilanian and Julia Ainsley

WASHINGTON ̵

1; In the summer of 2017, when Matthew Whitaker was a conservative CNN commentator, he repeatedly expressed reservations about a Special Attorney The investigation of Robert Mueller, at some point, he thought of how a clever attorney general could secretly make her starve to death.

Two years earlier, Whitaker, a former federal attorney in Iowa, was the president of the campaign for an Iowa politician who later became an important witness in Mueller's probe on the alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia .

Now, Whitaker is the attorney general who is acting and one of his tasks is overseeing the Mueller investigation. He has shown no indication that he will pay attention to Democrats and legal ethics experts, who say it is clear that he should refuse to do so. There is no legal mechanism to force its recusal.

"Based on what Mr. Whitaker has said in the past on Mueller's investigation, his assumption of responsibility on the investigation certainly raises the appearance of impropriety," said Mary McCord, who he led the Department of Justice's National Security Division under President Obama from 2016 to 2017. "I hope that, at the very least, you will consult with ethics experts in the Department before taking on this responsibility."

Whitaker, a physically imposing man who played closely for the Iowa University team who lost the 1991 Rose Bowl, most recently served as Jeff Sessions chief of staff, who he was forced by President Donald Trump on Wednesday 1965-9007. In the Justice Department, Whitaker was seen as a White House agent, an administration official, and a former US lawyer told NBC News.

"It is not a secret where his loyalties are – they are with the White House more than with the Department," said the official

instead of turning to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to become an attorney general. Trump has placed Whitaker in that role. Rosenstein, a career civil servant, had overseen the Mueller investigation because the Sessions had been rejected, due to his prominent role in Trump's presidential campaign. With the end of the Sessions, the attorney general in charge of the attention maintains the role of overseeing Mueller's approval budgets and signs new investigative steps or incriminations. It is believed that the prosecutor-in-law is to approve the politically strenuous move to issue a subpoena for the president's testimony – unless Mueller has already secured one with Rosenstein & # 39; s

As a commentator, Whitaker has expressed opinions on exactly the issues on which it could now decide.

For example, in a CNN editorial in August 2017, Whitaker wrote that Mueller's investigation was at risk of becoming a "witch hunt". He added, channeling the comments, from Trump, who would be "dangerously close to the crossing [a] red line" if Mueller looked at Trump's finances.

Before then, in July, Whitaker began to reflect on a television appearance about how Trump could Mueller.

"I could see a scenario where Jeff Sessions was replaced with a recreation appointment," Whitaker said, "and that attorney general does not dismiss Bob Mueller, but he reduces his budget so low that his investigation [19659007] That same month, Whitaker defended Donald Trump Jr.'s decision to meet with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower in June 2016, after he was promised to incriminate information about Hillary Clinton from the Russian government. [19659007] "You would always have a meeting," he said.

In a tweet of August 17, Whitaker seemed to criticize the FBI research on the home of the former president of Trump's campaign, Paul Manafort, who has since pleaded guilty and is cooperating with Mueller

"Do we want our government to" intimidate us "? Hmm, "he tweeted, linking to a Fox News story with the headline" Manafort's raid of the FBI included a dozen agents, "designed to intimidate," says the source. "

And in May 2017, speaking on Fox News, Sean Hannity's radio show, Whitaker opined that the president did not obstruct justice when he urged the then director of FBI James Comey to quit to investigate his then national security adviser, Mike Flynn.

"This does not increase to the level of obstruction of justice, and does not sound to me based on what has been reported that Jim Comey, while sitting there, believed that the president told him to stop the investigation, "Whitaker said." If all he did was just a suggestion and not an absolute command, I do not think he rises to the level of obstruction. "

Legal experts state that there are two reasons why Whitaker should refrain from any involvement in the matter. Mueller survey: his relationship with Sam Clovis and his previous statements that criticize the investigation.

A Department of Justice regulation says that no employee should participate in an "investigation" if he has a personal or political relationship with any person or organization substantially involved in the conduct being investigated ".

Clovis testified before the grand jury of Mueller, and he was listed as a "campaign supervisor" nameless in charge of the former Trump campaign helper George Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty to having lied to the FBI.

Clovis was present at a meeting, along with Sessions and Trump, during which Papadopoulos affirms that he is addressing the idea of ​​Trump's meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Both Clovis and Whitaker came across a Republican primary for the US Senate in I Owa in 2014, and during that time they became "great friends," Clovis said in a subsequent statement.

"I respect and admire Dr. Clovis," Whitaker said. "His life is an example of strong service to God and service to the nation.

Kathleen Clark, a law professor and ethics expert at Washington University, states that friendship appears to be a cause for rejection, but equally problematic, he says, are Whitaker's statements that suggest he is not impartial about the Mueller survey

Federal ethical regulations applying the governmental state that a government employee should consider in a matter when circumstances would cause a reasonable person with knowledge of the relevant facts to question his impartiality in the matter. "

" I believe there are circumstances that could raise a question in the mind of a reasonable person regarding the impartiality of Whitaker in the investigation in Russia, "Clark said." We as a public have the right to be certain that the people participating in that investigation are impartial. "

But there is no enforcement mechanism." The official said that it is up to Whitaker to seek the advice of ethics officers in the Department of Ethics or the Department of Justice's ethics office.

"It is incumbent on the person," the official said. "There is not a policeman of ethics wandering the Department."


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