Is Robert Mueller’s probe into the 2016 presidential election about to be shut down?
Critics, including President Donald Trump, have long called for the investigation to be halted. The special counsel’s probe has been called a political “witch hunt” that has spent millions in taxpayer dollars and unfairly targeted Trump’s White House for two years.
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That could all come to an end soon.
According to reports, Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker — Trump’s nominee to replace former Attorney General Jeff Sessions — has been advised by Justice Department ethics officials that he does not need to recuse himself from overseeing the special counsel’s Russia probe.
The investigation had been overseen by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein until Trump ousted Sessions as attorney general last month and appointed Whitaker.
Now, it’s going to be overseen by Whitaker — who could quickly end the expensive investigation, or at least “grind it to a halt.”
Whitaker has been highly critical of Mueller’s job, saying it has stretched beyond it’s initial scopes and should be reigned in.
For example, in a newspaper op-ed last year Whitaker said Rosenstein should “order Mueller to limit the scope of his investigation to the four corners of the order appointing the special counsel.”
“If he doesn’t, then Mueller’s investigation will eventually start to look like a political fishing expedition,” Whitaker wrote. “This would not only be out of character for a respected figure like Mueller, but also could be damaging to the President of the United States and his family — and by extension, to the country.”
The report is according to a person familiar with the matter and not authorized to discuss it publicly who spoke to The Associated Press on Thursday on condition of anonymity.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and other Democrats have called for Whitaker to recuse himself from overseeing the Mueller investigation.
Trump appointed former Attorney General William Barr, who served as attorney general under former President George H.W. Bush, to formally replace Sessions last month. However, Barr needs to be confirmed by the Senate before taking office. There is no date currently set for his confirmation vote.
Barr has also been very critical of the Mueller probe — specifically about the lack of “balance” among his prosecutors.
“The majority of investigators appointed to the special counsel’s office made significant political donations to Democratic candidates and causes, with a majority also registered as Democratic voters,” Fox News reported. “But … Barr also sent a 20-page memo to the Justice Department calling Mueller’s Russia probe ‘legally unsupportable’ and ‘potentially disastrous,’ specifically referring any inquiries into obstruction of justice. Barr reportedly wrote that line of inquiry was ‘fatally misconceived.'”
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With Whitaker getting approval to take the reigns from Rosenstein, it could finally be coming to an end very, very soon.
The Associated Press contributed to this article