The Justice Department won’t say whether acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker’s ethics review is still incomplete, 14 months after he joined that department, as congressional Democrats have asserted.
Whitaker spokesperson Kerri Kupec declined to comment on the claim, which Democrats made in a letter Thursday reiterating a request that they be notified if ethics officials advise Whitaker to recuse himself from oversight of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
“It is our understanding that, 14 months after Mr. Whitaker joined the Department, his ethics review is still incomplete,” the letter said. “The Department has offered no public explanation for this extraordinary delay, nor have we received any reply to our letter.”
Calls for Whitaker’s recusal were raised due to his TV punditry criticizing Mueller before joining the Justice Department, as well as to his relationship with Sam Clovis, who’s testified in front of Mueller’s grand jury. Whitaker and Clovis have remained friends since running against each other in the 2014 Senate race in Iowa.
Whitaker served as former Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ chief-of-staff before being named Sessions’ replacement when Trump fired Sessions last month.
There have also been questions raised about the legality of Whitaker’s appointment, given that his previous DOJ role was not Senate confirmed, and due to his role on the board of a Miami-based company the Federal Trade Commission shut down. The FBI is investigating the company, World Patent Marketing, which the FTC called a “scam.”
Whitaker does not intend to recuse himself from the Mueller probe, the Washington Post reported, but the Justice Department issued a statement last month claiming that he would consult ethics officials about his “oversight responsibilities and matter that may warrant recusal.”
Read the congressional Democrats’ letter below: