Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker should recuse from the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into possible coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump campaign as well as investigations into Michael Cohen, the Trump Organization, and the Trump Campaign. His personal relationship with a key witness in the investigations, public statements deriding them, and pressure from the President disqualify him from overseeing the investigations.
Whitaker’s prompt recusal would ensure the integrity of the Department of Justice, according to the letter CREW sent to the DOJ’s Designated Agency Ethics Official on November 8, 2018. Since then, CREW has filed two supplemental letters that provide further evidence of Whitaker’s bias and weight to the determination that he must recuse.
For example, Whitaker publicly imagined ways to curtail the Special Counsel’s investigation. In a July 26, 2017 appearance on CNN, Whitaker discussed putting pressure on Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to “cut the budget of Bob Mueller and do something a little more stage crafty than the blunt instrument of firing the attorney general and trying to replace him.” Whitaker also described the precise scenario that is playing out before our eyes: “I could see a scenario where Jeff Sessions is replaced, it would recess appointment and that attorney general doesn’t fire Bob Mueller but he just reduces his budget to so low that his investigations grinds to almost a halt.”
The President’s efforts to stymie the investigations further support the need for Whitaker to recuse. According to CNN, President Trump views prosecutors in the Cohen investigation being conducted by the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York as “going rogue” and “pressed Whitaker on why more wasn’t being done to control prosecutors in New York.” President Trump reportedly contacted Whitaker on at least two occasions to express his “displeasure” and “anger” about SDNY prosecutors who “made Trump look bad.”
Finally, Whitaker could not be impartial with respect to the consumer fraud investigation by the FBI into World Patent Marketing (WPM), a company that had an advisory board on which Whitaker served. Whitaker’s prior affiliation with WPM raises new ethics concerns because of a reported FBI investigation into that company. While WPM is the subject of an ongoing FBI investigation Whitaker should also recuse himself from supervising that matter.
Whitaker has so far ignored the recommendation Department of Justice ethics officials that he should recuse, so CREW filed a complaint with the DOJ Inspector General.