Trump Praises Acting Attorney General While Distancing Himself from Controversial Appointee


WASHINGTON, Nov 9 - President Donald Trump said on Friday he had not discussed the probe into Russia's meddling in the 2016 USA presidential election with Matt Whitaker before appointing him as acting attorney general, and it was up to Whitaker whether he wanted to be involved with the investigation.

Whitaker will now oversee the investigation of interference from Russian Federation in the 2016 presidential elections as well as possible collusion with the campaign of President Trump, a controversial probe headed by former FBI chief Robert Mueller.

On Wednesday, Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions, raising the possibility that Sessions' replacement - Matthew Whitaker - could seek to curtail Mueller's investigation.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, a career Justice Department official who has already been confirmed by the Senate, should have been named to the open position instead of Whitaker.

Organizers say the naming of Whitaker as Acting Attorney General is a "deliberate attempt to obstruct the special counsel's investigation".

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Despite Trump's current distancing himself from Whitaker, two Republicans close to the president said he had enjoyed Whitaker's TV appearances and the two had struck a bond.

"I haven't ruled out anything", he said. "I think the president understands that it's best for Bob Mueller to finish his investigation".

At the same appearance this morning, CNN reporter Abby Phillip asked Trump if he wants Whitaker to rein in Robert Mueller.

"The forced firing of Attorney General Sessions appears to be part of an ongoing pattern of behavior by the president seeking to undermine (the) investigation into Russian interference", said the letter to Goodlatte, written by Representative Jerrold Nadler, the committee's top Democrat, and 16 other Democrats who sit on the panel.

It was Clovis, no stranger to TV and radio himself, who encouraged Whitaker to get a regular commentary gig on cable television to get President Donald Trump's attention, according to friends who Whitaker told at the time.

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Legal scholars are debating the constitutionality of his appointment, with some lawyers saying it is illegal because he has not been confirmed by the Senate.

Whitaker told CNN in 2017 he could envision a situation where a new attorney general would "reduce (Mueller's) budget so low that his investigation grinds to nearly a halt".

While Whitaker is now Mueller's ultimate supervisor, it was not immediately clear whether that meant Rosenstein would step aside.

The letter was signed by the attorneys general of Massachusetts, New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia. But you know what I do? Whitaker has been publicly critical of the investigation in the past.

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