Acting US A-G disregards advice on Russia probe recusal

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That's according to a Justice Department official who briefed reporters on condition he not be identified. He told The Hill past year that "leaks" from the special counsel's office "raise questions as to whether there is an agenda" and suggested that Mueller's team was not politically "balanced," because some members had made political contributions to Democratic candidates.

Whitaker decided not to take the advice. Critics also note how he often Whitaker has publicly criticized the probe he's now overseeing.

William Barr, President Donald Trump's choice to replace Jeff Sessions as attorney general, reportedly sent an "unsolicited memo" to the Justice Department earlier this year, in which he criticized special counsel Robert Mueller's ongoing investigation into allegations of collusion between Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and Russian Federation. That official spoke with reporters on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive conversations.

It showed that although Whitaker was not required to step aside from the investigation, the issue wasn't so clear cut.

Members of Congress have expressed concerns about Whitaker's past criticism of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

Mueller's investigation, which Trump has derided as a "witch hunt", is also examining whether Trump's election campaign had colluded with Moscow and any possible obstruction of justice.

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"The memo that you made reference to reflects Mr. Barr's personal opinion", Rosenstein said.

Barr previously wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post entitled, "Trump made the right call on Comey", criticizing the former Federal Bureau of Investigation director for flouting longstanding Justice Department protocols when he announced in July 2016 that he wouldn't recommend charges against Hillary Clinton for mishandling classified info during her time as secretary of state, usurping the role of the attorney general at the time.

"This is ominous: Barr's unsolicited critique of Mueller's pursuit of Trump's obstruction of justice needs to be challenged in the Senate Judiciary Committee", said Laurence Tribe, a professor at Harvard Law School.

Whitaker is a Trump loyalist and had criticized the Mueller probe as too far-reaching before he was tapped in November to be acting attorney general.

"The president must immediately reconsider and find another nominee who is free of conflicts and will carry out the duties of the office impartially", Schumer said. Trump never forgave him and ultimately forced him from the job a year and a half later.

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