Despite mounting fears, acting Attorney General, Matthew Whitaker, has assured members of the Justice Department he won’t cut the budget allocated to special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.
Whitaker’s appointment to replace ousted Attorney General Jeff Sessions has Democrats concerned he will use his powers to reign in the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Whitaker told CNN last year that he could imagine a situation where, instead of firing Mueller, the acting Attorney General could reduce his budget “so low that his investigations grind to almost a halt.” He has also previously written columns for The Hill and CNN calling for limiting Mueller’s investigation.
One of Whitaker’s associates in the Department of Justice (DOJ) told Bloomberg Whitaker assured colleagues that he would allow the probe to continue under his leadership.
It remains unclear how Whitaker could rescind Mueller’s funding. According to Bloomberg, the special counsel has already been allocated a budget for the 2019 fiscal year. This was approved by the DOJ and it appears unlikely the incoming Attorney General could alter the allocation now.
Whitaker’s assurance also comes just hours after Adam Schiff issued a warning that House Democrats would hold Whitaker accountable for any actions taken to disrupt or interfere with Mueller’s investigation.
Schiff, who is expected to chair the House Intelligence Committee in the next session of Congress, told NBC, “if he has any involvement whatsoever in this Russia probe, we are going to find out whether he made commitments to the president about the probe, whether he is serving a back channel to the president or his lawyers about the probe, whether he’s doing anything to interfere with the probe”.
Schiff warned ominously, “Mr. Whitaker needs to understand that he will be called to answer”.
Watch Schiff’s full conversation with Chuck Todd on NBC below:
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Oliver is a UK-born freelance writer and journalist based in Boston. He is a self-confessed politics junkie with a passion for foreign and environmental policy. His work has been featured on Open Democracy, International Policy Digest, and the London Economic. He was a regular contributor for ASEAN Today.