Special counsel Bob Mueller's team is writing its final report in the Russia investigation, CNN reports, as President Donald Trump names a new acting attorney general who has been critical of the probe.
CNN reports that Trump is reviewing his answers to Meuller's questions, which he agreed to answer in written form instead of at a sit-down interview. The two legal teams may still negotiate a possible in-person interview.
The news comes after Trump forced out Attorney General Jeff Sessions and named Sessions' chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker, as his acting replacement.
Whitaker has been critical of the Mueller investigation and a vocal supporter of presidential power. Mother Jones reported that Whitaker said in a radio interview last year that the president can end any investigation he wants.
“This is power that is completely vested in the president…If he wanted to he could have told Jim [Comey] to stop investigating former [Defense Intelligence Agency] director Flynn. And he didn’t…I’m sure he made his preference known. Quite frankly, he’s president of the United States. He can do that,” Whitaker said.
In another interview, Whitaker rejected the idea that Trump obstructed justice by asking then-FBI Director James Comey to stop investigating Flynn.
“There is no case for obstruction of justice because the president has all the power of the executive and delegates that to people like the FBI director and the attorney general…The president could and has in our nation’s history said stop investigating this person or please investigate this other person,” he said.
Whitaker has long history of Mueller criticism:
“If [Mueller] were to continue to investigate [Trump's] 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 in a CNN op-ed last year. “If Mueller is indeed going down this path, Rosenstein should act to ensure the investigation is within its jurisdiction and within the authority of the original directive.”
Top legal analysts say Whitaker appointment unconstitutional:
George Conway, the husband of White House advisor Kellyanne Conway who was on the shortlist to be Trump's solicitor general, wrote an op-ed in The New York Times along with former acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal explaining that Trump's appointment of Whitaker is unconstitutional.
"A principal officer must be confirmed by the Senate," they wrote. "It means that President Trump’s installation of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general of the United States after forcing the resignation of Jeff Sessions is unconstitutional. It’s illegal. And it means that anything Mr. Whitaker does, or tries to do, in that position is invalid."
Democrats demands Whitaker recusal:
"Given his record of threats to undermine & weaken the Russia investigation, Matthew Whitaker should recuse himself from any involvement in Mueller’s investigation," Nancy Pelosi said in a tweet. "Congress must take immediate action to protect the rule of law and integrity of the investigation. #FollowTheFacts."