New Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker has been critical of Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, as has President Trump. Whitaker could cut Mueller’s budget or take other moves to restrict or end the investigation.
Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker could make life difficult for Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller. The biggest question in Washington is: Will he? Whitaker took over on Wednesday from Jeff Sessions, who was forced out after months of verbal abuse by President Trump. Whitaker was Sessions’ chief of staff, so he’ll step into the job with a nearly complete working knowledge of the department — except for Mueller’s investigation, NPR reports. That’s because Sessions had recused himself, calling it inappropriate that he lead an inquiry into Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign of which he was a part.
With Sessions gone, that means Whitaker’s purview includes the special counsel’s investigation. Whitaker has not been a fan. “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 an op-ed last year before he came to work for the government. He called for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller and who has been supervising his work, to curb the investigation. Trump suggested Wednesday that the only reason he hasn’t already ousted Mueller is because it might make him look bad. Whitaker could stop paying the investigators or attorneys working for the special counsel or could re-assign them to their previous jobs in the FBI and the Justice Department or the intelligence community.