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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.)

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol June 28, 2018 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)

Pointing to Past Criticism of Mueller Probe, Schumer Demands New Acting Attorney General Recuse Himself

"Given his previous comments advocating defunding and imposing limitations on the Mueller investigation, Mr. Whitaker should recuse himself from its oversight."

Jessica Corbett

After President Donald Trump ousted Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called on his temporary replacement, Matthew Whitaker, to recuse himself from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's ongoing investigation, pointing to Whitaker's past criticism of the probe.

"Clearly, the president has something to hide," Schumer tweeted, responding to Trump's announcement he appointed Whitaker to serve as acting attorney general.

"Given his previous comments advocating defunding and imposing limitations on the Mueller investigation, Mr. Whitaker should recuse himself from its oversight for the duration of his time as acting attorney general," Schumer declared.

In a move that had infuriated Trump and presumably led to Sessions' forced resignation, while serving as head of the Justice Department, Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation, so up until now it has been overseen by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

However, statements from a Justice Department spokesperson and other legal experts on Wednesday suggest that Whitaker's appointment means he will now oversee the probe, even though he wrote an op-ed for CNN in August of 2017 arguing that Rosenstein should impose limitations on Mueller.

Additionally, as the Washington Post pointed out, Whitaker appeared on CNN in July of that same year and suggested that if Trump were to fire Sessions, his replacement could force Mueller's investigation to grind to a halt by slashing the special counsel's budget.

Amid concerns that Whitaker's appointment is an attempt by Trump to block Mueller's probe from proceeding, many others, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), turned to social media to demand that the president refrain from interfering with the investigation.

"President Trump must allow Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation to continue unimpeded," Sanders said. "Any attempt by the president or the Justice Department to interfere with Mueller's probe would be an obstruction of justice and impeachable offense."

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