Minnesota Attorney General Asks Whitaker to Recuse Himself from Russia Probe

Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson joined several of her colleagues across the country in urging Acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker to recuse himself from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.

Whitaker was tapped to fill in after the resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, but his temporary appointment to the role has caused widespread speculation and criticism among Democrats in Washington. They argue that Whitaker’s previous comments disqualify him from overseeing Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference during the 2016 election.

While serving as Sessions’ chief of staff, Whitaker claimed that the Mueller probe had “gone too far,” and suggested that Sessions’ replacement could “reduce” the budget of the investigation.

Swanson and 17 of her counterparts are now asking Whitaker to “recuse [himself] from any role in overseeing” the investigation, just as Whitaker’s predecessor had done.

“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,” they argue in a letter addressed to Whitaker.

The attorneys general go on to note that Whitaker’s “public comments criticizing Mr. Mueller’s investigation have been widely circulated.”

“As prosecutors and law enforcement officials committed to the rule of law, we believe that the independent Special Counsel must have full authority to investigate and, if warranted, prosecute any violations of federal law,” they add, suggesting that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein should continue to oversee the investigation.

“An attorney general’s highest responsibility is to uphold the law and ensure public confidence in the impartial administration of justice by leading an empowered and independent department,” the letter concludes. “We hope you share that goal.”

While Whitaker has so far declined to recuse himself from the investigation, he has indicated that he won’t cut the investigation’s budget and is consulting with ethics officials within the Department of Justice about “matters that may warrant recusal.”

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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to anthony.gockowski@gmail.com.

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