Act­ing AG un­likely to re­cuse him­self

The Bradenton Herald - - News - BY DEVLIN BAR­RETT, MATT ZAPO­TO­SKY AND JOSH DAWSEY

Act­ing at­tor­ney gen­eral Matthew Whi­taker has no in­ten­tion of re­cus­ing him­self from over­see­ing the spe­cial-coun­sel probe of Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 elec­tion, ac­cord­ing to peo­ple close to him who added they do not be­lieve he would ap­prove any sub­poena of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump as part of that in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Since step­ping into his new role Wed­nes­day, Whi­taker has faced ques­tions – prin­ci­pally from Democrats – about whether he should re­cuse him­self from the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion, given that he has writ­ten opin­ion pieces about the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and is a friend and po­lit­i­cal ally of a grand jury wit­ness.On Thurs­day, two peo­ple close to Whi­taker said he does not plan to take him­self off the Rus­sia case. They also said he is deeply skep­ti­cal of any ef­fort to force the pres­i­dent’s tes­ti­mony through a sub­poena.

S pe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller has been ne­go­ti­at­ing for months with Trump’s at­tor­neys over the terms of a pos­si­ble in­ter­view of the pres­i­dent. Cen­tral to those dis­cus­sions has been the idea that Mueller could, if ne­go­ti­a­tions failed, sub­poena the pres­i­dent. If Whi­taker were to take the threat of a sub­poena off the ta­ble, that could al­ter the equi­lib­rium be­tween the two sides and sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce the chances that the pres­i­dent ever sits for an in­ter­view.

At the Jus­tice Depart­ment, ethics of­fi­cials typ­i­cally re­view the past work of se­nior lead­ers to see whether they have any fi­nan­cial or per­sonal con­flicts that would pre­clude them from over­see­ing par­tic­u­lar cases.

In the past, se­nior Jus­tice Depart­ment of­fi­cials have tended to fol­low such ad­vice, but they are rarely re­quired to do so, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cials fa­mil­iar with the process.

“The con­sis­tent tra­di­tion, through ad­min­is­tra­tions of both po­lit­i­cal par­ties, has been for DOJ’s se­nior lead­ers to con­sult ca­reer ethics of­fi­cials on ques­tions of re­cusal,” said Matthew Axelrod, a se­nior depart­ment of­fi­cial dur­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion. “Here, to avoid ir­repara­ble dam­age to the in­sti­tu­tion’s in­tegrity, it is cru­cial that the nor­mal process be fol­lowed.”

Matt Whi­taker

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