Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called on Sunday for a provision that would protect the special counsel's Russia investigation to be added to a government funding bill that's due to be considered in the coming weeks. Democrats are working to prevent Donald Trump's recent appointment of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general from interfering with special counsel Robert Mueller.
If Whitaker doesn't recuse himself from overseeing the probe, Schumer told the Associated Press, “Democrats in the House and Senate are going to attempt to put on must-pass legislation, mainly the spending bill, legislation that would prevent Whitaker from interfering in any way with the Mueller investigation."
The Mueller protection bill would give any special counsel an avenue to seek review of their firing and ensure there was sufficient cause for such an action. The legislation, which passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee last spring, was co-sponsored by Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, but Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to take it up with the full Senate.
Whitaker has rather notoriously written op-eds and given interviews in which he declared there was no evidence of Trump-Russia collusion, charged that Mueller was overstepping his mandate, and imagined a scenario in which Justice Department officials overseeing the Russia probe starved it of funding.
Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi sent a letter Sunday to the chief ethics officer of the Department of Justice urging him to disclose if he had advised Whitaker to recuse himself from overseeing the investigation and his underlying reasoning for doing so or not.
New York Rep. Jerrold Nadler, incoming chair of the House Judiciary Committee, told ABC's This Week that he's prepared to call Whitaker before his committee if he's still serving as acting attorney general by the beginning of next year.
“One of our first orders of business will be to invite him, and if necessary to subpoena him, to appear before the committee,” Nadler said, noting that safeguarding Mueller’s investigation would be his committee’s top priority.