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Whitaker recusal from Mueller probe unlikely, but Rosenstein still involved

While special counsel Robert Mueller technically had a new boss at the Justice Department as of Wednesday af...

Posted: Nov 9, 2018 1:32 AM
Updated: Nov 9, 2018 1:32 AM

While special counsel Robert Mueller technically had a new boss at the Justice Department as of Wednesday afternoon, the day-to-day work of the probe forged ahead on Thursday.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's top deputy, Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General Ed O'Callaghan, met with lawyers from the special counsel's team, according to a source familiar with the matter -- just as he has been doing on nearly a biweekly basis for months, as CNN previously reported.

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It's a small but illustrative example of how the Mueller probe is likely to function, at least for the time being, in the wake of the abrupt ouster of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

For nearly 18 months, Rosenstein has overseen the special counsel's investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election because Sessions had stepped aside from all matters related to the presidential campaign.

But when Sessions' chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker, leapfrogged over Rosenstein and was named acting attorney general in his boss' place Wednesday afternoon, questions immediately began to swirl about who Mueller would report to, whether Whitaker must recuse himself from the investigation given his fierce criticism of it, if Rosenstein would quit and whether Mueller's work will be curtailed.

Whitaker has given no indication he believes he needs to step aside from ultimately overseeing Mueller's investigation, one person familiar with his thinking told CNN Thursday.

That belief is echoed by White House officials who also do not believe Whitaker needs to recuse himself, sources tell CNN.

From a practical standpoint, one of the sources said, it would defeat the entire purpose of naming him as acting attorney general since Trump railed against Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation.

But Rosenstein is expected to continue to handle the day-to-day management of the probe, as he would for any other significant criminal investigation.

One source described it as "business as usual."

However, the arrangement may prove challenging down the line, or quickly, if Whitaker and Rosenstein disagree on any significant matter.

As the Washington Post reported Thursday, people close to Whitaker do not believe he would approve Mueller seeking a subpoena of President Donald Trump.

While Whitaker has made questionable comments that could create the appearance of a conflict of interest, there isn't an explicit conflict under Justice Department rules, as might arise if -- for example -- he had a family member under active investigation.

According to department procedures, Whitaker would have to initiate an ethics review about a potential problem and has not yet done so. And even if ethics advisers at the Justice Department suggested he step aside, Whitaker is not obligated to follow that advice, sources explained.

One senior White House official noted that the Sessions situation was different. As a campaign surrogate, Sessions was arguably "substantially involved in the conduct that is the subject of the investigation," according to Justice Department regulations. Whitaker's writings do not fall under that requirement in the White House's view, though by Thursday evening senior officials were growing uneasy about the negative press coverage of Whitaker's previous comments about Mueller.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 320174

Reported Deaths: 7390
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto22294271
Hinds20755424
Harrison18450317
Rankin13923282
Jackson13733249
Madison10273225
Lee10063176
Jones8473167
Forrest7837153
Lauderdale7263242
Lowndes6523150
Lamar636288
Lafayette6314121
Washington5427138
Bolivar4841133
Panola4671110
Oktibbeha466398
Pearl River4606148
Marshall4574105
Warren4440121
Pontotoc425973
Monroe4162136
Union415877
Neshoba4065180
Lincoln4009113
Hancock387687
Leflore3516125
Tate342586
Sunflower339491
Pike3373111
Alcorn327474
Scott320374
Yazoo314571
Adams308486
Itawamba305178
Copiah299966
Coahoma299084
Simpson298689
Tippah292268
Prentiss284261
Leake272374
Marion271280
Covington267283
Wayne264842
Grenada264087
George252451
Newton249064
Tishomingo232369
Winston230282
Jasper222148
Attala215173
Chickasaw210659
Holmes190574
Stone188733
Clay187954
Tallahatchie180041
Clarke178980
Calhoun174232
Yalobusha167940
Smith164134
Walthall135447
Greene131834
Lawrence131224
Montgomery128643
Noxubee128034
Perry127538
Amite126342
Carroll122330
Webster115032
Jefferson Davis108334
Tunica108127
Claiborne103130
Benton102325
Humphreys97533
Kemper96729
Franklin85023
Quitman82316
Choctaw79118
Wilkinson69632
Jefferson66328
Sharkey50917
Issaquena1696
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 549013

Reported Deaths: 11311
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson810461571
Mobile42145831
Madison35718525
Tuscaloosa26179458
Shelby25626254
Montgomery25089614
Baldwin21901314
Lee16287176
Calhoun14724327
Morgan14639285
Etowah14183364
Marshall12454230
Houston10791287
Elmore10301214
Limestone10188157
St. Clair10161251
Cullman9958201
Lauderdale9612250
DeKalb8977190
Talladega8462184
Walker7341280
Autauga7242113
Jackson6953113
Blount6950139
Colbert6415140
Coffee5638127
Dale4930116
Russell454941
Chilton4478116
Franklin431782
Covington4279122
Tallapoosa4144155
Escambia401880
Chambers3728124
Dallas3610158
Clarke353161
Marion3245107
Pike314578
Lawrence3134100
Winston283572
Bibb268564
Geneva258481
Marengo250665
Pickens237062
Barbour234559
Hale227178
Butler224671
Fayette218962
Henry194443
Randolph187644
Cherokee187345
Monroe180641
Washington170739
Macon163051
Clay160159
Crenshaw156357
Cleburne153644
Lamar146937
Lowndes142254
Wilcox126930
Bullock124542
Conecuh113630
Coosa111629
Perry108626
Sumter105832
Greene93634
Choctaw62125
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High pressure still tries to hang on to our area on Thursday, however a weak warm front will change the dominance of high pressure. This weak cold front will give us a chance for some isolated showers and thunderstorms at times.
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