Washington—Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker must promptly recuse from all investigations of President Trump to ensure the integrity of the Department of Justice, according to a letter sent today to the DOJ’s Designated Agency Ethics Official by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).
There are alarming reports that President Trump and White House aides view Whitaker as a dependable ally in their efforts to control investigations of the President. The President’s reported expectation that Whitaker will not recuse from these matters regardless of the outcome of his consultation with Department of Justice ethics officials is extremely troubling.
“Whitaker’s appointment in these circumstances is also unprecedented: Never before has a President designated an acting attorney general who had not previously been serving in a Senate-confirmed position,” the letter reads. “Nor has a President ever before appointed an acting attorney general who is on record describing the means by which the President could curtail an ongoing investigation of the President’s conduct.”
In a July 26, 2017 appearance on CNN, Whitaker discussed ways to undermine the special counsel investigation, including by 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 imagined 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 letter, signed by CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder and Board Chair Norman Eisen, outlines more reasons for which Whitaker should recuse, including his personal relationship with a key witness in the investigations.