A senior Justice Department ethics official reportedly concluded that Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker should recuse himself from overseeing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian collusion, but his advisers told him he should do the opposite. According to The Washington Post, Whitaker has “no plans to step aside” despite making public comments about his distaste for the Mueller probe. Whitaker reportedly met with ethics officials numerous times to discuss the matter, and a senior ethics official told his advisers that it was a “close call.” However, the ethics official reportedly concluded that Whitaker should recuse himself to “avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.” The acting AG’s advisers “disagreed” with that determination and told Whitaker the next day to not recuse himself, the report says. According to the Post, the advisers told him there was “no precedent” for the recusal and doing so would set a “bad precedent” for future AGs.
The newspaper reports that former AG Eric Holder recused himself from an investigation into former presidential candidate John Edwards in 2009, based on the fact that he had been on President Obama’s search committee for a vice president, which considered Edwards. Whitaker previously asserted there was “no collusion” with Russia and called the Mueller probe “political.”