FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: Chief of Staff to the Attorney General Matthew Whitaker attends a roundtable discussion with foreign liaison officers at the Justice Department in Washington, U.S., August 29, 2018. REUTERS/Allison Shelley/File Photo/File Photo
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Friday said he did not discuss the U.S. special counsel’s ongoing Russia investigation with Matt Whitaker before appointing him as acting attorney general this week.
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump also said he had not ruled out sitting down for an interview with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is probing alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election and any possible collusion with Trump’s campaign.
“I didn’t speak to Matt Whitaker about it,” Trump said of the Russia probe.
Whitaker took over the top job at the Justice Department on Wednesday after Trump asked for the resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. A spokeswoman said Whitaker would oversee all matters under the department’s jurisdiction, including the Russia investigation.
Whitaker has publicly criticized the probe as being too broad, and Democrats have called on him to recuse himself, saying his appointment this week appeared to be an effort by Trump to impede the investigation.
Trump said it was up to Whitaker whether he would be involved in the investigation. “No matter who I put in, they go after him,” he said. “It’s very sad.”
Russia has denied interfering in the election, and Trump has repeatedly said there was no collusion between his campaign and Moscow.
Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Writing by Susan Heavey and Tim Ahmann; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Paul Simao