Acting AG Matt Whitaker Has Not Met With Robert Mueller, Lindsey Graham Says

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker has yet to meet with special counsel Robert Mueller but has no plans to shut down the Russia investigation, GOP Senator Lindsey Graham said.

Graham told The Washington Post he had met with Whitaker on Thursday afternoon.

According to Graham, the acting attorney general also said he would not recuse himself from oversight of the Mueller investigation, despite calls for him to do so.

"He says he will be following regular order," Graham told The Post.

The Department of Justice said Whitaker was taking ethics advice on recusing himself from overseeing Mueller, a move that could infuriate President Donald Trump, who never ceased to disparage former Attorney General Jeff Sessions for his recusal.

Kerri Kupec, spokeswoman for the Justice Department, said that Whitaker was "fully committed to following all appropriate processes and procedures at the Department of Justice, including consulting with senior ethics officials on his oversight responsibilities and matters that may warrant recusal."

Mueller has been investigating Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, including possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

Trump has dismissed the investigation as a "witch hunt," yet Mueller has racked up a number of indictments, guilty pleas and convictions, including against some of thosewho were closest to Trump, such as his former campaign manager Paul Manafort and former-personal attorney Michael Cohen.

Trump asked former Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign the day after the midterms, and asked Whitaker, Sessions's chief of staff, to step up as Sessions's replacement.

Sessions had angered Trump by immediately recusing himself from oversight any inquiry into Russia's meddling in the 2016 election, given his ties to the presidential campaign.

Critics of Whitaker's appointment said his past comments about the Mueller investigation compromise his independence, and that he must recuse himself.

Whitaker said in a 2017 op-ed for CNN that the special counsel should not investigate Trump's family finances lest it become "a mere witch hunt," and urged Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to limit the probe.

"If [Mueller] were to continue to investigate the financial relationships without a broadened scope in his appointment, then this would raise serious concerns that the special counsel's investigation was a mere witch hunt," Whitaker wrote.

He later added: "It is time for Rosenstein…to order Mueller to limit the scope of his investigation to the four corners of the order appointing him special counsel. If he doesn't, then Mueller's investigation will eventually start to look like a political fishing expedition."

And in an interview with CNN the same year, Whitaker said he could see a situation in which an acting attorney general stifled the Mueller probe by reducing its budget "to so low that his investigations grind almost to a halt," Bloomberg reported.

Moreover, Whitaker defended the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort and Russian lobbyists with Kremlin ties during a CNN panel discussion.

The Trump campaign had earlier been told that it would be given damaging information on Trump's Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

Matt Whitaker mueller
Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker addresses state and local law enforcement on efforts to combat violent crime and the opioid crisis at the U.S. Courthouse Annex, on November 14, in Des Moines, Iowa. Whitaker said he had no plans to recuse himself from overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. Steve Pope/Getty Images