Prez dis­tances him­self from new act­ing AG

Simcoe Reformer - - WORLD NEWS - Eric Tucker and Jonathan Lemire

WASH­ING­TON — U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump dis­tanced him­self Fri­day from his new act­ing at­tor­ney gen­eral, Matthew Whi­taker, whose past busi­ness ties and com­ments on the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion and other top­ics have drawn scru­tiny.

Trump el­e­vated Whi­taker to the post on Wed­nes­day af­ter forc­ing out At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions, in­stalling a Repub­li­can Party loy­al­ist to over­see the spe­cial coun­sel in­ves­ti­ga­tion into pos­si­ble ties be­tween Rus­sia and the pres­i­dent’s 2016 cam­paign.

Since then, Whi­taker, who had been Ses­sions’ chief of staff, has faced pres­sure from Democrats to re­cuse him­self from over­see­ing spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller, based on crit­i­cal com­ments he made about the in­ves­ti­ga­tion be­fore join­ing the Jus­tice Depart­ment last year.

Those in­clude an op- ed in which he said Mueller would be stray­ing out­side his man­date if he in­ves­ti­gated Trump fam­ily fi­nances and a talk ra­dio in­ter­view in which he main­tained that there was no ev­i­dence of col­lu­sion be­tween the Krem­lin and the Trump cam­paign.

There have also been re­ports about past com­ments ques­tion­ing the power and reach of the fed­eral ju­di­ciary, and about his ties to an in­ven­tion-pro­mo­tion com­pany that was ac­cused of mis­lead- ing in­vestors.

Asked about Whi­taker on Fri­day, Trump told jour­nal­ists: “I don’t know Matt Whi­taker. Matt Whi­taker worked for Jeff Ses­sions, and he was al­ways ex­tremely highly thought of, and he still is. But I didn’t know Matt Whi­taker. He worked for At­tor­ney Gen­eral Ses­sions.”

He said he had not spo­ken with Whi­taker about Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion, which un­til now has been over­seen by Deputy At­tor­ney Gen­eral Rod Rosen­stein.

Trump has not said who he will nom­i­nate to per­ma­nently re­place Ses­sions. That can­di­date, un­like Whi­taker, would have to be con­firmed by the Se­nate.

For­mer New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is said to be a can­di­date, along with La­bor Sec­re­tary Alex Acosta and Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Sec­re­tary Alex Azar, among oth­ers.

Trump told re­porters he has not dis­cussed the post with Christie, who he said was “a friend of mine” and “a good man.”

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