House Democrats are demanding that acting attorney general Matt Whitaker, who took over for Attorney General Jeff Sessions after President Trump requested, received, and accepted Sessions’s resignation Wednesday, recuse himself from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.
In a letter to Whitaker, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee urged him to recuse himself based on previous criticisms he has made of the probe.
“There is little doubt that President Trump’s decision to force the firing of Attorney General Sessions places Special Counsel Mueller’s inquiry at grave risk,” Representative Jerrold Nadler and other Democrats wrote to Whitaker, adding that it would be “inappropriate” for him to oversee the probe.
The Democrats also wrote a letter to the Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte (R., Va.) requesting an emergency hearing.
“The president now directly threatens the rule of law itself. Democrats and Republicans [should] set aside partisanship to avoid a full-fledged constitutional crisis in the Watergate era,” the letter read. “It is therefore necessary that we set aside our political interests and work together to protect our nation and the rule of law from this grave threat.”
Sessions recused himself from the Mueller investigation last year, citing his association with the Trump campaign. Trump had frequently and publicly disparaged Sessions, the first Republican senator to endorse his campaign, over the recusal, and wasted no time after Tuesday’s midterms in ousting the attorney general.
Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer and House minority leader Nancy Pelosi both called on Whitaker to recuse himself from the investigation based on remarks he has made saying the probe went “too far” and calling on Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to “limit the scope of his investigation.”
“Mueller has come up to a red line in the Russia 2016 election-meddling investigation that he is dangerously close to crossing,” Whitaker wrote in a CNN op-ed last year, referring to reports that Mueller planned to look into the Trump family finances.
“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,” Schumer said in a statement Wednesday.
Pelosi agreed, writing on Twitter that Whitaker should recuse himself, “given his record of threats to undermine & weaken the Russia investigation.”