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Acting attorney general to consult with DOJ ethics officials on recusal

By
Allen Cone
Activists, appearing on the steps of City Hall in Los Angeles last week, protest attempts to curtail special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russia. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
Activists, appearing on the steps of City Hall in Los Angeles last week, protest attempts to curtail special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russia. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 12 (UPI) -- Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker will consult with Justice Department ethics officials "on matters that may warrant recusal," a department spokeswoman said Monday.

If Whitaker were to recuse himself in oversight of the Russia investigation, the next highest person in the agency -- Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein -- would resume his role that he relinquished when the appointee moved up from chief of staff.

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"Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker is fully committed to following all appropriate processes and procedures at the Department of Justice, including consulting with senior ethics officials on his oversight responsibilities and matters that may warrant recusal," Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said in a statement obtained by Business Insider and The Wall Street Journal.

Whitaker has overight of Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russia's interference in the 2016 U.S. election. That includes whether members of President Donald Trump's campaign colluded with Moscow and if Trump sought to obstruct justice in the agency's probe.

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Last Wednesday, Trump forced out Attorney General Jeff Sessions and replaced him with Whitaker, who has opposed the investigation. Session had recused himself from the investigation after meetings with the Russian ambassador and his work as a campaign aide.

The Washington Post also reported that if Mueller wanted to subpoena the president, Whitaker would not allow it. And the newspaper has reported Whitaker met with Trump in the Oval Office more than a dozen times while chief of staff since September 2017.

On Sunday, top Congressional Democrats wrote a letter to Lee Lofthus, the assistant attorney general for administration, about Whitaker.

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"There are serious ethical considerations that require Mr. Whitaker's immediate recusal from any involvement with the Special Counsel investigation of the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election," the Democrats wrote.

"The official supervising the Special Counsel investigation must be -- in both fact and appearance -- independent and impartial. Regrettably, Mr. Whitaker's statements indicate a clear bias against the investigation that would cause a reasonable person to question his impartiality."

Whitaker has oversight of the FBI, which is invesitgating World Patent Marketing Inc., that is accused of scamming millions from customers when Whitaker served as a paid advisory-board member, according to The Wall Street Journal.

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Whitaker also ran a conservative political nonprofit after serving as a U.S. attorney in Iowa.

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