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: 481397

Reported Deaths: 9395
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison32996486
Hinds30973586
DeSoto30491353
Jackson23650348
Rankin21267368
Lee14867220
Madison14145271
Jones13365226
Forrest13125238
Lauderdale11538305
Lowndes10418176
Lamar10184130
Pearl River9055219
Lafayette8218137
Hancock7501112
Washington7033150
Oktibbeha6937124
Monroe6491161
Neshoba6463201
Warren6439163
Pontotoc626593
Panola6219126
Bolivar6105144
Marshall6102121
Union573086
Pike5590136
Alcorn536090
Lincoln5297131
George470072
Scott456096
Leflore4468140
Prentiss445277
Tippah443680
Itawamba4430100
Adams4403116
Tate4351101
Simpson4324112
Wayne431566
Copiah431087
Yazoo423086
Covington414792
Sunflower4137104
Marion4087104
Leake397186
Coahoma394298
Newton368775
Grenada3553104
Stone350659
Tishomingo334689
Attala324886
Jasper313762
Winston303591
Clay295273
Chickasaw286665
Clarke280290
Calhoun265140
Holmes261887
Smith249549
Yalobusha220547
Tallahatchie218850
Walthall210558
Greene207845
Lawrence206033
Perry199353
Amite198152
Webster195942
Noxubee178239
Montgomery172054
Jefferson Davis167642
Carroll161937
Tunica152734
Benton142035
Kemper138440
Claiborne126634
Choctaw126326
Humphreys126337
Franklin116628
Quitman103626
Wilkinson101536
Jefferson88833
Sharkey62820
Issaquena1926
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 781915

Reported Deaths: 13798
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1109621748
Mobile706071213
Madison49359617
Baldwin36054485
Shelby35933311
Tuscaloosa33540540
Montgomery32996673
Lee22337218
Calhoun20935400
Morgan19666329
Etowah18890454
Marshall17575274
Houston16598377
St. Clair15287298
Limestone14442184
Cullman14441252
Elmore14299259
Lauderdale13395278
Talladega12781234
DeKalb12102233
Walker10495328
Autauga9611135
Blount9595154
Jackson9293152
Coffee8764174
Dale8485171
Colbert8448180
Tallapoosa6557177
Escambia6541117
Covington6409165
Chilton6314142
Russell600655
Franklin5744101
Chambers5350133
Marion4748116
Dallas4672185
Clarke459177
Pike458895
Geneva4333116
Winston420292
Lawrence4099108
Bibb405680
Barbour342969
Marengo324783
Monroe316652
Butler316088
Randolph302855
Pickens300673
Henry299657
Hale290483
Cherokee286752
Fayette276473
Washington245048
Crenshaw236768
Clay226264
Cleburne225750
Macon218057
Lamar192541
Conecuh180146
Lowndes170758
Coosa167533
Wilcox159636
Bullock148642
Perry136336
Sumter124136
Greene120542
Choctaw73326
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Fall has started off exactly as you would have anticipated and it looks like we should have a number of dry days still ahead, but this isn’t a permanent switch, because heat is pegged to return.
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