There's somewhere close to a 0% chance of Sessions' replacement recusing himself in the Russia probe

Want to hear a funny joke?OK, here goes: Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker is going to recuse him...

Posted: Nov 9, 2018 5:30 AM
Updated: Nov 9, 2018 5:30 AM

Want to hear a funny joke?

OK, here goes: Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker is going to recuse himself from overseeing the ongoing special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

2016 Presidential election

Continents and regions

Donald Trump

Eastern Europe

Elections (by type)

Elections and campaigns

Europe

Government and public administration

Investigations

Jeff Sessions

Law and legal system

Matt Whitaker

Political candidates

Political Figures - US

Politics

Robert Mueller

Rod Rosenstein

Russia

Russia meddling investigation

US Federal elections

US Presidential elections

Pretty good one, right?

I kid. But not really.

Look, I get why Democrats, in the immediate aftermath of President Trump's firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the appointment of Whitaker, sought to push the idea of recusal. Whitaker has made any number of statements in the past that suggest he is disinclined to provide the sort of defense of Robert Mueller's probe that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has. In a 2017 op-ed for CNN, Whitaker wrote:

"It is time for Rosenstein, who is the acting attorney general for the purposes of this investigation, to order Mueller to limit the scope of his investigation to the four corners of the order appointing him special counsel. If he doesn't, then Mueller's investigation will eventually start to look like a political fishing expedition."

There's plenty of other fodder just like that from Whitaker, all of which makes the same point: Whitaker, like Trump, is very skeptical of Mueller's probe. Which could be, at least in theory, grounds for Whitaker to recuse himself.

Notice how I said "in theory." Because here's the reality: Whitaker ain't recusing himself.

Consider everything we know about how Whitaker came to be chosen as acting attorney general:

1. Sessions drew Trump's ire for recusing himself from the Russia probe due to his status as a prominent surrogate for the President during the 2016 campaign. (Sessions' recusal came after it became known that he had not revealed several interactions with Russian officials when under questioning by senators during his confirmation hearings.)

2. Trump had repeatedly expressed his frustration with Rosenstein and his support for the independence of Mueller's investigation. (Trump reportedly referred to Rosenstein as "Mr. Peepers" in private, although he denied that.) Rosenstein also became a target for House conservatives -- most notably California Rep. Devin Nunes (R) -- who insisted that he was not being entirely forthcoming in answering their demands for documents related to the origins of the Russia inquiry.

3. Trump fired Sessions the day after the midterm election, after 18 months of bullying him publicly and privately -- all of which sprung from his anger at Sessions' recusal.

4. Trump chose to pass over Rosenstein in picking an acting attorney general.

5. Trump named Whitaker to the role -- in a tweet! -- after Whitaker had repeatedly spoken out regarding his issues with Mueller's probe.

Now ask yourself this: Given that sequence of events, WHY the hell would Whitaker ever recuse himself?

Asked about the possibility of recusal, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told reporters Thursday morning, "I don't know why he'd be recused. I'm not recused. You're not recused."

He was literally chosen for the gig to NOT recuse himself. He was named so that Trump could seize back control of an investigation that he has long railed against as a "witch hunt" and a "hoax."

Not convinced? Think about this: If Whitaker had spoken and written about how much faith he had in Mueller (and Rosenstein) and what a good job they were doing, do you think he would have been picked by Trump to be acting attorney general?

OF COURSE NOT.

Trump spent much of the past 18 months fuming -- in private and in public -- about how long the Mueller investigation was taking, how it was a total hoax, how Mueller and his investigatory team were hopelessly biased and on and on and on. On Wednesday, Trump made his play -- to, if not end the Mueller probe, then get some control back over it. (There is some debate as to whether Whitaker, who does not have Senate confirmation, can even serve as acting attorney general.)

Here's what Trump said when asked about the Russia investigation on Wednesday afternoon -- before the Sessions firing went public:

"I stay away from it. But you know what I do? I let it just go on. They're wasting a lot of money, but I let it go on, because I don't want to do that. But you're right; I could end it right now. I could say, 'That investigation is over.' "

Or he could take baby steps. Like this one.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 313166

Reported Deaths: 7228
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21496257
Hinds20294414
Harrison17814309
Rankin13573278
Jackson13411246
Madison10066217
Lee9962173
Jones8364163
Forrest7649152
Lauderdale7181240
Lowndes6370145
Lamar621686
Lafayette6171118
Washington5323133
Bolivar4797132
Oktibbeha461498
Panola4561105
Pearl River4499145
Marshall4397103
Warren4380121
Pontotoc419572
Monroe4100133
Union409076
Neshoba4026176
Lincoln3950110
Hancock377786
Leflore3487125
Sunflower335790
Tate332484
Pike3301105
Scott315373
Alcorn311968
Yazoo310769
Itawamba299477
Copiah296465
Simpson294788
Coahoma294379
Tippah287768
Prentiss279560
Adams269582
Marion268880
Leake266273
Wayne262341
Grenada260386
Covington256381
George246848
Newton246061
Winston226881
Tishomingo225967
Jasper220848
Attala214173
Chickasaw207157
Holmes188673
Clay184754
Stone182033
Tallahatchie178140
Clarke177879
Calhoun170132
Yalobusha163337
Smith162234
Walthall133845
Greene130333
Lawrence128323
Montgomery126742
Noxubee126734
Perry125938
Amite122842
Carroll121728
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis106932
Tunica104826
Claiborne102230
Benton99125
Humphreys96133
Kemper95428
Franklin83623
Quitman80216
Choctaw76118
Wilkinson66930
Jefferson65428
Sharkey50317
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 530988

Reported Deaths: 10978
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson765291522
Mobile40971804
Madison34751503
Tuscaloosa25775452
Montgomery24329589
Shelby23431249
Baldwin21131308
Lee15884171
Calhoun14501314
Morgan14293279
Etowah13831353
Marshall12222223
Houston10567281
Elmore10061205
Limestone9960151
Cullman9664193
St. Clair9655243
Lauderdale9424241
DeKalb8830186
Talladega8223176
Walker7235277
Autauga6920108
Jackson6810112
Blount6660137
Colbert6298134
Coffee5511119
Dale4831111
Russell441138
Chilton4290112
Franklin425782
Covington4121118
Tallapoosa4027152
Escambia393376
Chambers3563123
Dallas3551151
Clarke351061
Marion3118101
Pike310877
Lawrence300298
Winston274472
Bibb260764
Geneva249977
Marengo249764
Pickens234461
Barbour230857
Hale222977
Butler215969
Fayette212362
Henry188744
Cherokee184845
Randolph180241
Monroe177440
Washington167339
Macon159150
Clay156256
Crenshaw152257
Cleburne148941
Lamar142535
Lowndes138853
Wilcox127130
Bullock123041
Conecuh110529
Perry107726
Coosa107228
Sumter104532
Greene92334
Choctaw60624
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