US attorney general will not recuse himself from overseeing Mueller probe

US attorney general will not recuse himself from overseeing Mueller probe
Robert Mueller

US attorney general William Barr will not recuse himself from overseeing Robert Mueller's investigation into possible coordination between Russia and Donald Trump's presidential campaign, the Justice Department has said.

Senior ethics officials advised Mr Barr against recusing himself from the special counsel's probe, spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said.

US Attorney General William Barr. Picture: EPA/Michael Reynolds
US Attorney General William Barr. Picture: EPA/Michael Reynolds

"Consistent with that advice, General Barr has decided not to recuse," she said in a statement.

During his confirmation hearing in January, Mr Barr sought to assuage concerns that he might disrupt or upend Mr Mueller's investigation as it reaches its final stages.

Some Democrats had raised those concerns, citing a memo Mr Barr had sent to Justice Department and White House lawyers in which he criticised Mr Mueller's investigation for the way it was presumably looking into whether Mr Trump had obstructed justice.

Mr Barr vowed to consult with ethics officials about whether he should recuse himself, but told senators the decision would ultimately be his to make under Justice Department guidelines.

He also stated without hesitation that it was in the public interest for Mr Mueller to finish his investigation and that he wanted to release as much information as he could about Mr Mueller's investigation to Congress and the public.

Under Justice Department guidelines, Mr Mueller will provide a confidential report to Mr Barr that explains his decisions to pursue or decline prosecutions.

Mr Barr will then prepare his own report that would be released to Congress. He has said he intends to share some information with the public, but it is unclear whether Mr Mueller's actual report will ever be made public.

Former FBI Director James Comey, whose firing is among the things being investigated by the special counsel's office, said in an op-ed in The Washington Post on Monday that "providing detailed information about a completed investigation of intense public interest has long been a part of Justice Department practice".

"Every American should want a Justice Department guided first and always by the public interest," he wrote.

Sometimes transparency is not a hard call.

The president had assailed and ultimately pushed out his first attorney general, Jeff Sessions, for recusing himself from Mr Mueller's investigation because of Mr Sessions' work with the Trump campaign.

The president named Matthew Whitaker, who was Mr Sessions' chief of staff, as acting attorney general in November.

But Mr Whitaker came under fire after he declined to recuse himself from the Mueller investigation even though a top Justice Department ethics official advised him to step aside out of an "abundance of caution".

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