Special counsel Robert Mueller said in court filings Monday that the recent leadership shake-up at the Justice Department had not changed anything in the legal fight over his authority.
The ascension of Matthew Whitaker to acting attorney general “neither alters the Special Counsel’s authority to represent the United States nor raises any jurisdictional issue,” the Mueller team said in the filing.
The filing from Muller comes amid concerns that Attorney General Jeff Session was replaced with his former chief of staff Matt Whitaker, a Mueller critic, so that Trump could exert more control over the probe.
The Muller team cites a Justice Department memo the Trump administration has pointed to in justifying its elevation of Whitaker, who has not been Senate confirmed since the George W. Bush years, to acting attorney general instead of a Senate confirmed official in the line of succession.
Mueller’s filing also said that “the Special Counsel has and continues to ‘exercise, within the scope of his or her jurisdiction, the full power and independent authority to exercise all investigative and prosecutorial functions of any United States Attorney,'” quoting a Nixon-era Supreme Court precedent backing Mueller’s position in the case.
The filing was in the legal challenge to Mueller’s authority brought by Roger Stone aide Andrew Miller, who has resisted a grand jury subpoena and was held by a federal judge in contempt. An appeals court heard arguments on the case earlier this month, the day after Sessions resigned. The panel of judges instructed the parties to argue the case as if Sessions hadn’t departed, but ordered additional filings addressing that issue.
Sessions was recused from the Russia probe, leaving Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller, in charge of the investigation. Whitaker’s elevation to acting attorney general has allowed him to assume oversight of the probe.
In Monday’s filing, Mueller also argues at length that the appeals court should not consider any new claims against his authority raised by Miller — who has not filed his supplemental briefing yet — in light of Whitaker’s rise to acting attorney general.
Read the new filing below: