- Title: What does Sessions ouster mean for Mueller's Russia probe?
- Date: 8th November 2018
- Summary: WASHINGTON, D.C., UNITED STATES (FILE - JUNE 13, 2013) (UNRESTRICTED POOL) ROBERT MUELLER, THEN-DIRECTOR OF THE FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION, TAKING AN OATH AT U.S. HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE HEARING MUELLER TESTIFYING
- Embargoed: 22nd November 2018 02:58
- Keywords: Attorney General Jeff Sessions President Donald Trump Russia probe Russia investigation 2016 U.S. presidential election Special Counsel Robert Mueller Justice Department Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein
- Location: WASHINGTON, D.C., LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, QUANTICO, VIRGINIA AND MADISON, ALABAMA, UNITED STATES/INTERNET
- City: WASHINGTON, D.C., LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, QUANTICO, VIRGINIA AND MADISON, ALABAMA, UNITED STATES/INTERNET
- Country: USA
- Topics: Government/Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA00795N85DZ
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: U.S. President Donald Trump's decision on Wednesday (November 7) to oust Attorney General Jeff Sessions and replace him with a noted critic of Special Counsel Robert Mueller raised immediate fears among Democrats about the future of Mueller's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Trump appointed Matthew Whitaker, formerly Sessions' chief of staff, as acting attorney general and the department confirmed he would be assuming oversight of the Mueller probe from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Jessica Levinson, law professor at the Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, said Trump was looking for an attorney general who would support his views of the investigation, which he has repeatedly called a "witch hunt". Whitaker has previously made public comments criticizing the probe.
"What he wants is somebody who's using words about the Mueller investigation like 'fishing expedition,' like 'disgrace'. And I think that's what we will largely get," she said.
The special counsel regulation under which Mueller was appointed does give the attorney general or acting attorney general authority to fire Mueller, but only for "good cause," such as misconduct, dereliction of duty or conflict of interest. Whitaker also has the power to block any "investigative or procedural step" Mueller recommends, such as bringing an indictment or subpoena, if he determines it to be "inappropriate or unwarranted under established Departmental practices."
Levinson considers it likely Mueller has already made contingency plans for such a scenario.
"My guess is that Robert Mueller has already shared some information to the extent possible with state attorney generals, with other federal prosecutors, because he very rightfully has worried that any day could be, frankly, the last day of the investigation. And so I also think what we have with Whitaker is someone who has said there are places you cannot go in this investigation. And so I think Mueller is acutely aware of the fact that there will be somebody overseeing this who is worried about the timing and the scope," she said.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer called on Whitaker to recuse himself over his previous statements and Democratic Representative Jerrold Nadler said the House Judiciary Committee would investigate Session's firing once he assumes the chairmanship in January.
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