Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today issued the following statement on Matthew Whitaker’s refusal to follow Justice Department recommendations that he recuse himself from supervising Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation:
“Press reports indicate that Matt Whitaker did not seek a formal opinion from career Justice Department ethics officials and chose to ignore their informal advice to recuse himself from supervising Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation. These reports are deeply disturbing, if true.
“Making matters worse, reports indicate that Whitaker convened a team of four advisors who stated he did not need to recuse himself. An issue of this significance should be addressed with a formal ethics opinion—not by handpicked political advisors—and advice of career attorneys should be followed.
“Recusal is important to ensure confidence in the independence of an investigation. Whitaker’s repeated statements against the special counsel’s investigation, at a minimum, create the appearance of a conflict.
“It’s also not true that an attorney general has never recused due to an appearance of conflict. Attorney General John Ashcroft recused from the Valerie Plame investigation, with then Deputy Attorney General James Comey explaining, ‘The issue surrounding the attorney general’s recusal is not one of actual conflict of interest that arises normally when someone has a financial interest or something. The issue that he was concerned about was one of appearance…’
“Whitaker’s refusal to follow the recommendation of ethics officials further indicates that he views his role as serving the president, not the American people.
“In November, I urged Chairman Grassley to hold an oversight hearing so that we could assess whether Whitaker’s appointment puts the Mueller investigation at risk. Today’s reports that Whitaker disregarded ethics officials creates even more reason for him to appear before the committee.”