WASHINGTON, D.C. — During an impromptu press conference Friday before leaving for Paris, President Donald Trump put some distance between himself and Matt Whitaker, the newly appointed acting attorney general who now oversees special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian election meddling and any ties to Trump associates.
Mr. Trump denied knowing Whitaker, the man he just appointed as the nation’s top law enforcement official.
“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,” Mr. Trump said.
But Whitaker has visited the Oval Office so many times, some of his Justice Department colleagues suspect him of being a White House spy.
Mr. Trump said he has not spoken to Whitaker about the special counsel. When asked if Whitaker was chosen to rein in the Russia probe, Mr. Trump said, “What a stupid question that is. What a stupid question.”
But before joining Sessions’ staff, Whitaker was publicly critical of the special counsel.
“I think fundamentally this investigation by Bob Mueller needs to be limited,” Whitaker said during an interview with Sean Hannity in 2017.
In an interview to air this Sunday, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi told CBS News’ “Face the Nation,” she thinks Whitaker needs to step aside.
“I think that he should recuse himself for any review of the investigation because of statements he has made already in the public domain,” Pelosi said.
In his first interview since leaving office, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he is “confident” that the Mueller probe will be handled “appropriately and with justification,” though he did criticize how long the investigation is taking. Sessions declined to discuss the details of his forced resignation.
Today Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who had been seeing the Russia investigation, praised his new boss as a “suburb choice” to be Acting Attorney General.