In July of last year, prior to becoming Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ chief of staff, President Donald Trump’s choice for acting attorney general said on CNN that reducing special counsel Robert Mueller’s funding would be a good way to curtail the Russia investigation, according to The Washington Post.
Matthew Whitaker also wrote an August 2017 op-ed in which he argued that Mueller had taken the investigation too far.
> Whitaker’s Russia commentary first cropped up when he was reported to be a likely replacement for Sessions’s No. 2, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, several weeks ago. Installing him as the No. 1, though, could give Whitaker even more power. It’s not clear he would take oversight of the Russia investigation, but there are other ways in which he could influence it.
His comments on CNN reveal the actions Whitaker thinks an acting attorney general should take to rein in the Mueller probe:
> Whitaker mused about a scenario in which Trump might fire Sessions and replace him with a temporary attorney general. Whitaker noted that federal regulations still gave the attorney general power over the budget for a special counsel. That temporary replacement, he then said, could move to choke off Mueller’s funding.
> “So I could see a scenario where Jeff Sessions is replaced with a recess appointment,” Whitaker said, “and that attorney general doesn’t fire Bob Mueller, but he just reduces his budget to so low that his investigation grinds to almost a halt.”
In the same interview, Whitaker also said Rosenstein could be pressured to take such steps:
> “I think what ultimately the president is going to start doing is putting pressure on Rod J. Rosenstein, who is in charge of this investigation, is acting attorney general, and really try to get Rod to maybe even cut the budget of Bob Mueller and do something a little more stage crafty than the blunt instrument of firing the attorney general and trying to replace him,” Whitaker said.
In his op-ed last year — titled, “Mueller’s investigation of Trump is going too far” — Whitaker said Rosenstein needed to “limit the scope of this investigation”.
> “The President is absolutely correct,” Whitaker said after Trump suggested that Mueller investigating his finances would cross a red line. “Mueller has come up to a red line in the Russia 2016 election-meddling investigation that he is dangerously close to crossing.”
> He has also downplayed the idea that anything illegal was done at the Trump Tower meeting, saying, “You would always take the meeting."
Due to Whitaker’s prior commentary on the issue, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Wednesday that the acting attorney general should recuse himself from the Russia investigation.
However, the Justice Department appears to have other plans: