Political News

Top House Democrat on intel panel warns Whitaker over Mueller probe

Posted November 13, 2018 11:15 a.m. EST

— The likely incoming chairman of the House Intelligence Committee is warning acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker from interfering in the Mueller investigation and called on him to recuse himself from overseeing the probe.

"The president and Whitaker should heed this warning: The new Democratic majority will protect the special counsel and the integrity of the Justice Department," California Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff wrote in an op-ed published by The Washington Post on Monday. "Should Whitaker fail to recuse himself — all indications are that he plans not to — and seek to obstruct the investigation, serve as a back channel to the president or his legal team or interfere in the investigations in any way, he will be called to answer. His actions will be exposed."

Schiff said Whitaker's recent appointment places the Mueller investigation in "imminent danger."

Whitaker assumed the role of acting attorney general after Trump fired Jeff Sessions last week, and he is expected to take charge of the Russia investigation and special counsel Robert Mueller from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The new acting attorney general has given no indication he believes he needs to step aside from ultimately overseeing the probe, one person familiar with his thinking told CNN last week.

In the op-ed, Schiff echoed other Democrats' criticism of Trump for bypassing normal succession in "handpicking" Whitaker, citing the acting attorney general's deep skepticism of the probe.

"If he does not recuse himself, Whitaker could seek access to the special counsel's plans and evidence, including grand jury testimony, and would be in a position not just to funnel information to Trump and his legal defense team but also to abuse his authority to cripple or end the investigation," Schiff wrote. "Whitaker could attempt to prevent evidence from reaching Congress and the public or stop the special counsel from subpoenaing important testimony, including from Trump himself."

Schiff called for Congress to ensure that whoever oversees that probe should "publicly pledge to protect the integrity of the special counsel."

"Trump, and those who would abet him in undermining the independence of the Justice Department, should understand this: The truth will come out."