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Acting U.S. attorney general disregards advice on Russia probe recusal


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Acting U.S. attorney general disregards advice on Russia probe recusal

By Mark Hosenball

 

2018-12-20T164623Z_1_LYNXNPEEBJ1I0_RTROPTP_4_USA-JUSTICE-SESSIONS.JPG

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein speaks during a news conference to announce efforts to reduce transnational crime, at the U.S. District Attorney's office, in Washington, U.S., October 15, 2018. REUTERS/Al Drago

 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker has decided not to recuse himself from overseeing the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, disregarding advice from his own ethics officials, a high-ranking Justice Department official said on Thursday.

 

The decision by Whitaker, known for making comments critical of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe before being appointed last month by President Donald Trump, was conveyed in a letter to congressional leaders by Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd.

 

Boyd said in the three-page letter department ethics officials determined that Whitaker lacked any personal, political or business conflicts that would disqualify him from supervision of Mueller's investigation.

 

Ethics officials concluded, however, that if their recommendation were sought "they would advise that the acting attorney general should recuse himself" because "a reasonable person with knowledge of the relevant facts likely would question" Whitaker's impartiality, Boyd wrote.

 

Boyd said the "appearance-of-impartiality" test in Whitaker's case was deemed a "close call" in which "credible arguments could be made either way," a finding he said Whitaker cited in his decision to retain his discretion to oversee the Mueller investigation.

 

"The ultimate decision about whether or not to recuse from a matter in a case such as this rests with the acting attorney general," Boyd said.

 

The letter, obtained by Reuters, was addressed to the top Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives, Speaker Paul Ryan, and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.

 

Mueller's investigation, which Trump has derided as a "witch hunt," is also examining whether Trump's election campaign had colluded with Moscow and any possible obstruction of justice.

 

The probe has already ensnared Trump's former campaign manager, former personal lawyer and his former national security adviser. Trump has denied wrongdoing and Moscow has said there was no interference.

 

The president's frequent criticism of the probe has raised concerns he may attempt to shut it down, putting a spotlight on the top Justice Department officials overseeing it.

 

It is unclear how long Whitaker, a former U.S. attorney and conservative commentator, will head the department.

 

His appointment, immediately following Trump's ouster of Jeff Sessions as attorney general in November, is under challenge in several court cases contending that the president violated the constitution by installing Whitaker without Senate confirmation.

 

Trump has already picked former Attorney General William Barr to become the department's new permanent chief, but the nomination needs to be approved by the Senate.

 

The top Democrat in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, said on Thursday Barr was unfit to serve given a memo he wrote to the Justice Department arguing that Mueller should not be permitted to look into possible attempts by Trump to obstruct the investigation.

 

"The president must immediately reconsider and find another nominee who is free of conflicts and will carry out the duties of the office impartially," Schumer said.

 

(Reporting by Mark Hosenball; Additional reporting by David Shepardson and Lisa Lambert in WASHINGTON and Steve Gorman in LOS ANGELES; Editing by Tim Ahmann, James Dalgleish and Paul Tait)

 
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-- © Copyright Reuters 2018-12-21
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1 hour ago, Thingamabob said:

The Mueller probe is a farce, a terrible waste of time and money.

 

So trump or whitaker should shut it down, right? Carry on.

 

Mueller Probe Cost $25 Million So Far, Report Says. It’s Pulled in $48 Million From Tax Cheats

 

http://fortune.com/2018/12/14/mueller-investigation-cost-tax-cheats/

 

 

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13 hours ago, Thingamabob said:

The Mueller probe is a farce, a terrible waste of time and money.

To date it’s running a profit, and it’s only just getting started seizing Individual-1’s assets.

 

But it’s not about the money, Russia interfered in the 2016 election, getting to the bottom of who conspired with Russia and rooting out traitors is the real profit.

 

Illiberals get your denial glasses on, the truth will (despite a Individual-1’s best efforts) out!

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7 hours ago, Tug said:

We all know the only reason this guy got the job was to shield trump 

Despite evidence to the contrary Whitaker is not entirely stupid, on taking up office he will have been briefed on progress of the Mueller investigation, he also understands that on January 3, Dems take the House and will lead all House committees and inquiries.

 

Whitaker knows he’s a ‘play’ that’s too late in the game.

 

Trump is toast, and Whitaker knows it.

 

He’s not going to put his balls on the chopping block by committing obstruction of justice for a dead in the water President.

 

Which is why Mueller is still reporting to  Rosenstein.

 

January 3.

 

Enjoy!

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So far in US history, the only impeachment proceeding to result in removing a president from office was Nixon, who finally resigned. Clinton was impeached but acquitted in the process. I believe the Trump removal from office will follow a somewhat similar path as Nixon, but perhaps more along the lines of Spiro Agnew. Normally, when faced with the utmost humiliation and shame and damage to his party, the president would resign, but knowing Trump's obstinate nature and attitude that he is above the law and knows better than anyone, he might not go along willingly, so he might just drag the country down the ugly path of full impeachment.

 

Whitaker's refusal to recuse will be just one of the many factors in a soon-to-come flood of activity leading to Trump's departure hopefully, depending on what Mueller has.

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1 hour ago, keemapoot said:

Whitaker's refusal to recuse will be just one of the many factors in a soon-to-come flood of activity leading to Trump's departure hopefully, depending on what Mueller has.

It's little consolation, but Trump's name as a businessman will be worthless after his presidency (except, of course, with his man crush Vlad).

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15 hours ago, Thingamabob said:

The Mueller probe is a farce, a terrible waste of time and money.

To date the probe has cost less than $30 million.  They have already accumulated more than $48 million in seizures and fines.  How is that a waste of money. 

 

I think that the income will grow massively when all of Trump's illegal assets are forfeited.

 

The new attorney general had to agree not to recuse himself if he wanted the job.  Trump would not appoint him otherwise!

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