Washington: Ignoring advice from ethics officials within his own Justice Department, acting US Attorney General Matthew Whitaker will not recuse himself from overseeing the investigation into Russia's alleged interference in the 2016 US presidential election, a source says.
Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker.Credit:AP
Justice Department ethics officials had recommended Whitaker, who made comments critical of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe before taking office, should not supervise the investigation, says the source, who has knowledge of the situation.
Mueller's investigation, which President Donald Trump derides as a "witch hunt", is also examining whether Trump's campaign had colluded with Moscow.
The probe has already ensnared Trump's former campaign manager, former personal lawyer and his former national security adviser. Trump has denied wrongdoing and Moscow has said there was no interference.
The president's frequent criticism of the probe has raised concerns he may attempt to shut it down, putting a spotlight on the top Justice Department officials overseeing it.
Protesters gather in front of the White House in Washington, DC.Credit:AP
Whitaker is a Trump loyalist and had criticised the Mueller probe as too far- reaching before he was tapped in November to be acting attorney-general.
He replaced Jeff Sessions, who was fired by Trump in large part because Trump was angry Sessions had bowed to pressure to recuse himself from the Russia investigation.
It's unclear how long Whitaker will oversee the department.
The president has already picked former attorney-general William Barr to become the department's new permanent chief but the nomination needs to be approved by the Senate.
Democrats and a number of Republicans have raised concerns about Trump's moves at the Justice Department, with a bipartisan group of US senators renewing a push for legislation to protect the special counsel.
The top Democrat in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, said on Thursday that Barr was unfit to serve given a memo he wrote to the Justice Department arguing Mueller should not be permitted to look into possible attempts by Trump to obstruct the investigation.
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