House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi charged that President Donald Trump’s firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions can only be seen as a “blatant attempt” to undermine Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
At the request of Trump, Sessions offered his resignation on Wednesday.
In a tweet, the president announced that “Matthew G. Whitaker, Chief of Staff to Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the Department of Justice, will become our new Acting Attorney General of the United States. He will serve our Country well.”
“We thank Attorney General Jeff Sessions for his service, and wish him well! A permanent replacement will be nominated at a later date,” Trump added.
Pelosi responded with a tweet of her own, writing, “It is impossible to read Attorney General Sessions’ firing as anything other than another blatant attempt by @realDonaldTrump to undermine & end Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation.”
Given his record of threats to undermine & weaken the Russia investigation, Matthew Whitaker should recuse himself from any involvement in Mueller’s investigation. Congress must take immediate action to protect the rule of law and integrity of the investigation. #FollowTheFacts
— Nancy Pelosi (@NancyPelosi) November 7, 2018
The next House Speaker-apparent added, “Given his record of threats to undermine & weaken the Russia investigation, Matthew Whitaker should recuse himself from any involvement in Mueller’s investigation. Congress must take immediate action to protect the rule of law and integrity of the investigation.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer also called for Whitaker to recuse himself, as did the next likely House Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., and the next apparent House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.
Schumer tweeted, “Given his previous comments advocating defunding and imposing limitations on the Mueller investigation, Mr. Whitaker should recuse himself from its oversight for the duration of his time as acting attorney general.”
Given his previous comments advocating defunding and imposing limitations on the Mueller investigation, Mr. Whitaker should recuse himself from its oversight for the duration of his time as acting attorney general.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) November 7, 2018
In August 2017, Whitaker argued in a CNN Op-Ed that the president was right that Mueller “would be crossing a line if he started investigating the finances of Trump and his family.”
In his piece, Whitaker quoted Trump from a New York Times interview during this time frame, in which he said regarding the idea of Mueller expanding the probe into his finances, “I think that’s a violation. Look, this is about Russia.”
“The President is absolutely correct. Mueller has come up to a red line in the Russia 2016 election-meddling investigation that he is dangerously close to crossing,” wrote Whitaker.
Whitaker added: “This information is deeply concerning to me. It does not take a lawyer or even a former federal prosecutor like myself to conclude that investigating Donald Trump’s finances or his family’s finances falls completely outside of the realm of his 2016 campaign and allegations that the campaign coordinated with the Russian government or anyone else. That goes beyond the scope of the appointment of the special counsel.”
Sessions appointed Whitaker his chief of staff the month after he penned the Op-Ed.
The Iowa native served as a U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Iowa during the administration of George W. Bush. He later ran for the U.S. Senate in the Hawkeye State in 2014, but did not win the Republican primary.
Trump addressed whether he would end Mueller’s Russia investigation during a news conference at the White House on Wednesday.
“I don’t want to stop it, because politically, I don’t like stopping it,” he replied. “It’s a disgrace. It should have never been started, because there was no crime. Everybody has conflicts. They all have conflicts over there,” referring to Mueller and his team of prosecutors.
“But do you know what I do? I let it go on,” he added. “I could end it right now. I could say, ‘That investigation is over,'” but he emphasized he has no plans to do so.
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