The top Democrat in the Senate, Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, wants the Justice Department's inspector general to look into whether acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker had "unlawful or improper communications" with the White House, the latest sign Democrats are sharply scrutinizing the man leading DOJ.
"I write to request that your office conduct an investigation of whether any potentially unlawful or improper communications have occurred between Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, the White House, and other entities," Schumer wrote in a letter to DOJ inspector general Michael Horowitz.
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Before being appointed by Trump to take over when Attorney General Jeff Sessions was ousted, Whitaker had been a critic of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. Schumer cited a report from Vox earlier this month that alleges Whitaker "privately provided advice to the president last year on how the White House might be able to pressure the Justice Department to investigate the president's political adversaries."
"Recent reports regarding Mr. Whitaker's unusual history of contacts with the White House give rise to serious concerns about whether he has engaged in communications intended to undermine or obstruct Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, or that otherwise may have been in violation of law or policy," Schumer wrote in his letter.
The Justice Department's inspector general's office declined to comment for this report.
Schumer's letter comes a day after three Democratic senators filed a lawsuit challenging Whitaker's appointment, ratcheting up the court effort to declare his placement atop the Justice Department as unconstitutional. Democrats had previously urged Whitaker to recuse himself from supervising the Mueller investigation, in addition to questioning the constitutionality of his appointment.
Whitaker was serving as Sessions' chief of staff before Sessions was fired, and has not gone through the Senate confirmation process in that role. His appointment leap-frogged Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, which also gave Whitaker control over the Mueller investigation that had previously been supervised by Rosenstein.