STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

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.

Continents and regions

Donald Trump

Eastern Europe

Europe

Government and public administration

Government bodies and offices

Investigations

Matt Whitaker

Political Figures - US

Politics

Robert Mueller

Russia

Russia meddling investigation

US federal government

White House

Government departments and authorities

Government organizations - US

Jeff Sessions

Justice departments

Law and legal system

US Department of Justice

US federal departments and agencies

Rod Rosenstein

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.

Confirmed Cases: 115088

Reported Deaths: 3255
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7973177
DeSoto703979
Harrison522384
Jackson457884
Rankin394086
Madison383194
Lee357380
Forrest304678
Jones292484
Washington258399
Lafayette250443
Lauderdale2478135
Lamar225538
Oktibbeha202454
Bolivar201677
Neshoba1849111
Lowndes179962
Panola170040
Leflore167187
Sunflower162349
Warren154855
Monroe150673
Pontotoc147220
Marshall143129
Lincoln140157
Pike138456
Copiah137536
Scott125429
Coahoma124937
Grenada122638
Yazoo122234
Simpson121549
Union118825
Tate116839
Leake115041
Holmes114760
Itawamba113925
Pearl River113660
Adams108544
Prentiss106120
Wayne101722
Alcorn100112
George99218
Covington97527
Marion95042
Tippah90322
Newton86627
Chickasaw85526
Tallahatchie84526
Winston84121
Hancock84028
Tishomingo81241
Attala79426
Clarke75851
Clay69321
Jasper68717
Walthall63927
Calhoun62612
Noxubee59817
Smith59416
Montgomery54923
Yalobusha54514
Claiborne53716
Tunica53517
Lawrence51814
Perry49423
Carroll49312
Greene47818
Stone47514
Humphreys43816
Amite42513
Quitman4206
Jefferson Davis41011
Webster37613
Benton3416
Wilkinson33820
Kemper32615
Sharkey28514
Jefferson27610
Franklin2423
Choctaw2086
Issaquena1074
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 155915

Reported Deaths: 2674
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson23129377
Mobile16849315
Tuscaloosa10296140
Montgomery10197197
Madison928096
Shelby733863
Baldwin663769
Lee653465
Calhoun456761
Marshall438150
Etowah426551
Houston414834
Morgan412035
DeKalb338829
Elmore320053
St. Clair292542
Limestone284230
Walker277292
Talladega265335
Cullman244024
Lauderdale226242
Jackson214915
Franklin205231
Autauga204831
Colbert200532
Russell19443
Blount192525
Chilton186932
Dallas186527
Coffee176311
Dale175151
Covington174029
Escambia172530
Chambers135044
Clarke134317
Pike133513
Tallapoosa131787
Marion107629
Barbour10319
Marengo100822
Butler100740
Winston92213
Geneva9007
Lawrence85032
Pickens84718
Bibb82814
Randolph82316
Hale76730
Washington74412
Clay74112
Cherokee73314
Lowndes70928
Henry7086
Bullock64817
Monroe64610
Crenshaw60630
Perry5896
Fayette57413
Wilcox56712
Conecuh56113
Cleburne5568
Macon53420
Lamar4905
Sumter47221
Choctaw39012
Greene34216
Coosa2033
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Overcast
65° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 65°
Columbus
Scattered Clouds
63° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 63°
Oxford
Overcast
57° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 57°
Starkville
Overcast
63° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 63°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather