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Trump: didn’t know acting AG Whitaker was critical of Mueller

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donald trump
U.S.
President Donald Trump talks to the media on the South Lawn of
the White House in Washington, U.S., before his departure to
California, November 17, 2018.

Reuters/Yuri Gripas

  • President Donald Trump said he didn’t know acting
    Attorney General Matthew Whitaker had been a vocal critic of
    special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation before he
    appointed him. 
  • Whitaker’s record was met with sharp scrutiny after
    Attorney General Jeff Sessions resigned, with many taking issue
    at his appearance as a Trump loyalist, and lack of intention to
    recuse himself from matters relating to the investigation in
    Russia and Trump.

President Donald Trump said he didn’t know that acting
Attorney General Matthew Whitaker had been a
vocal critic
of special counsel Robert Mueller’s
investigation before he appointed him. 

“I did not know that. I did not know he took views on the
Mueller investigation as such,” Trump told host Chris Wallace on
“Fox News Sunday,” adding that when he did find out about
Whitaker’s views he didn’t “think it had any
effect.” 

Whitaker was met with sharp scrutiny after
Attorney General Jeff Sessions resigned at the president’s
request, as he reportedly 

did not plan to recuse
himself
 from overseeing the investigation and would
block Mueller from subpoenaing Trump.

Whitaker has frequently undermined the
legitimacy and validity of the Mueller probe
 in past
media appearances, echoing one of Trump’s most-used assertions
that the probe is a “witch hunt,” and declaring in 2017 the “truth
is there was no collusion with the Russians and the Trump
campaign.” 

“He’s right. What do you do when a person’s right?” Trump
said. “There is no collusion. He happened to be right. I mean, he
said it. So if he said there is collusion, I’m supposed to be
taking somebody that says there is?  Because then I wouldn’t
take him for two reasons, but the number one reason is the fact
that he would have been wrong.”

Read more: In a ‘self-defeating and
self-incriminating’ slipup, Trump just indicated he installed
Matthew Whitaker to kill the Russia probe

When Wallace brought up Whitaker’s record, the program cut
to a panel segment where Whitaker is shown saying
he “could see a scenario where Jeff Sessions is replaced and that
attorney general doesn’t fire Bob Mueller, he just reduces the
budget so low that his investigation grinds to a halt.”

When Wallace asked about Trump’s reaction potential efforts
by Whitaker to limit or
curtail 
the Mueller investigation, Trump said he would not
get involved. 

“I think he’s astute politically. He’s a very smart person.
A very respected person,” Trump said. “He’s going to do what’s
right. I really believe he’s going to do what’s right.”

Incoming House intelligence committee chairman Adam Schiff lead the charge
last week of Democratic lawmakers speaking out on the future of
Mueller’s investigation under Whitaker, promising members of
Congress were prepared to challenge Whitaker’s legitimacy and
expose any ulterior motives. 

“If he doesn’t recuse himself, 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,” Schiff
said. “Whether he is serving as a back channel to the president
or his lawyers about the probe, whether he’s doing anything to
interfere with the probe.”

Whitaker’s appointment brought refreshed concern for
Mueller’s investigation, which is poised to enter a new phase as
Trump said Saturday he would deliver his answers to
questions from the special counsel next week. Though the content
of the answers was unclear, 

Trump said he “probably” wouldn’t sit for an interview with
Mueller because “we’ve wasted enough time on this witch
hunt.” 

Wallace pressed, “What are the odds? One in a hundred?”

“I don’t do odds,” Trump said. 

“You ran a casino sir,” Wallace interjected. 

“You’re right, and very successfully,” Trump said, before again
adding that he thinks the investigation’s end is near. 

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