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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: 261167

Reported Deaths: 5713
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17561191
Hinds16687329
Harrison14050202
Rankin11102217
Jackson10729188
Lee9014143
Madison8495168
Jones6607114
Forrest6135122
Lauderdale6067192
Lowndes5490120
Lafayette511794
Lamar499865
Washington4904125
Bolivar4087109
Oktibbeha403581
Panola380981
Pontotoc374757
Monroe3651106
Warren3649103
Union353263
Marshall352069
Neshoba3464154
Pearl River3422105
Leflore3090109
Lincoln304287
Sunflower290373
Hancock288461
Tate279062
Alcorn270754
Pike268180
Itawamba266662
Scott256048
Yazoo253756
Prentiss251153
Copiah247649
Tippah247550
Coahoma245954
Simpson241471
Leake236167
Grenada222471
Marion220273
Covington219072
Adams212370
Wayne208432
Winston205870
George203539
Newton197346
Attala196461
Tishomingo193861
Chickasaw188444
Jasper177838
Holmes171368
Clay164237
Tallahatchie155635
Stone149525
Clarke144762
Calhoun139922
Smith127725
Yalobusha121134
Walthall114037
Greene112929
Noxubee112225
Montgomery111236
Carroll106422
Lawrence105617
Perry104031
Amite100826
Webster95424
Tunica88221
Claiborne87825
Jefferson Davis87727
Benton84823
Humphreys84224
Kemper80020
Quitman7049
Franklin69617
Choctaw62513
Wilkinson59625
Jefferson56520
Sharkey44817
Issaquena1606
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 436087

Reported Deaths: 6486
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson63969994
Mobile31211565
Madison27851208
Tuscaloosa21233271
Montgomery19698326
Shelby19093130
Baldwin16981188
Lee13036105
Morgan12526134
Etowah11987179
Calhoun11441206
Marshall10357123
Houston8886158
Limestone827876
Cullman8203108
Elmore8120104
DeKalb7828103
Lauderdale7798103
St. Clair7763125
Talladega6394111
Walker6002177
Jackson594644
Colbert545276
Blount543986
Autauga532761
Coffee456762
Dale406883
Franklin372448
Russell349212
Chilton342873
Covington336068
Escambia330144
Dallas312096
Tallapoosa3120107
Chambers301170
Clarke293336
Pike261131
Marion251558
Lawrence250752
Winston232742
Bibb221248
Geneva208746
Marengo206529
Pickens199031
Hale182742
Barbour179337
Fayette177029
Butler172459
Cherokee164330
Henry158224
Monroe151320
Randolph144336
Washington140127
Clay129146
Crenshaw122944
Macon120937
Cleburne120724
Lamar119721
Lowndes113736
Wilcox106622
Bullock102228
Perry99118
Conecuh96821
Sumter90026
Greene76823
Coosa63215
Choctaw51724
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