The DOJ confirmed to INSIDER that acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker will assume control of the FBI’s Russia probe and Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Whitaker is seen by many as a hardline loyalist to President Donald Trump and has written and commented extensively on his belief that Mueller needs to be reined in.
Trump’s decision to oust attorney general Jeff Sessions and replace him with Whitaker sparked concern among lawmakers and national security experts who said the move was an attempt to gut the Russia investigation.
“Why is the President making this change and who has authority over Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation?” asked Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler. “We will be holding people accountable.”
Democrats regained control of the House of Representatives on Tuesday and are widely expected to function as a check on Trump’s attacks on the DOJ and FBI.
The Deparment of Justice (DOJ) confirmed to INSIDER on Wednesday that Matthew Whitaker, the acting attorney general replacing Jeff Sessions, will assume oversight of the FBI’s Russia investigation and Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
“The Acting Attorney General is in charge of all matters under the purview of the Department of Justice,” a DOJ spokesperson said in an email.
Whitaker, a former US attorney from the Southern District of Iowa, is viewed by many as a staunch Trump loyalist.
According to The New York Times, White House chief of staff John Kelly once described Whitaker as the West Wing’s “eyes and ears” in the DOJ, which is currently investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to tilt the 2016 election in his favor.
Whitaker appears to share the White House’s skepticism toward Mueller and the Russia probe. Shortly before he was hired as Sessions’ chief of staff last year, wrote in a CNN op-ed that “Mueller has come up to a red line in the Russia 2016 election-meddling investigation that he is dangerously close to crossing.”
Whitaker added that his concerns stemmed from reports that the special counsel was probing the Trump Organization’s financial records. Mueller’s scrutiny of Trump’s finances “falls completely outside of the realm” of his appointment, Whitaker wrote.
But in a letter outlining the scope of Mueller’s appointment last year, deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein gave Mueller broad authority not only to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated” with Trump’s campaign, but also to examine “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.”
Rosenstein also gave Mueller the power to investigate “any other matters within the scope of 28 C.F.R. § 600.4(a)” — including perjury, obstruction of justice, destruction of evidence, and intimidation of witnesses.
Trump’s announcement of Sessions’ ouster on Wednesday sparked widespread concern from lawmakers and national security experts who said it was an attempt to gut Mueller’s investigation.
“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,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in a statement.
House Democrats — who now …read more
Source:: Business Insider