In response to President Donald Trump forcing U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign and replacing him with a die-hard loyalist, seventeen state attorneys general and the attorney general for the District of Columbia sent a letter Thursday requesting Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. According to Whitaker’s associates, he has no intention of recusing himself from overseeing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference during the 2016 election.
Shortly after the Democrats recently won back the House of Representatives, Trump ordered Sessions to resign and replaced him with Whitaker, who wrote a CNN op-ed last year titled “Mueller’s investigation of Trump is going too far.” During multiple interviews, Whitaker floated the idea of Sessions’ replacement cutting off Mueller’s funding before being able to conclude the investigation into Trump and several members of his campaign.
On Tuesday, the Attorneys General of Massachusetts, New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia signed a letter addressed to Whitaker requesting his recusal from the Russia investigation. They also asked him to allow Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to continue supervising Mueller’s investigation without interference from Whitaker.
The attorneys general wrote, “As chief law enforcement officers of our respective states, we ask that you recuse yourself from any role in overseeing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Because a reasonable person could question your impartiality in the matter, your recusal is necessary to maintain public trust in the integrity of the investigation and to protect the essential and longstanding independence of the Department you have been chosen to lead, on an acting basis.
“You must be aware that your public comments criticizing Mr. Mueller’s investigation have been widely circulated. At various opportunities – in print, on television, and through social media – you have suggested cutting the Special Counsel’s budget or limiting his authority to follow lines of inquiry. As prosecutors and law enforcement officials committed to the rule of law, we believe that the independent Special Counsel must have the full authority to investigate and, if warranted, prosecute any violations of federal law.”
They added, “By all appearances, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has ably supervised the Special Counsel’s investigation from its outset. He should continue to do so, as Mr. Mueller’s work must proceed free from interference or supervision that would appear to many Americans to be biased.”
According to The Washington Post, at least two people close to Whitaker said that he has no intention of recusing himself and probably would not force the president’s testimony through a subpoena. During an interview with The New York Times last year, Trump stated, “Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else.”