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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.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 554536

Reported Deaths: 7083
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1155051679
Ramsey47786853
Dakota42410422
Anoka38477415
Washington24913273
Stearns20994218
St. Louis16774297
Scott15946117
Wright14764127
Olmsted1273297
Sherburne1060080
Carver980145
Clay781289
Rice7632101
Blue Earth695840
Kandiyohi627380
Crow Wing615086
Chisago548250
Otter Tail542673
Benton530597
Mower450532
Goodhue442471
Douglas441870
Winona438149
Nobles400248
Morrison394659
McLeod394355
Isanti375159
Beltrami372257
Itasca370752
Polk365367
Steele361914
Becker353948
Lyon347848
Carlton329352
Freeborn326829
Pine311821
Nicollet306542
Brown294439
Mille Lacs281250
Le Sueur269722
Todd268730
Cass249626
Meeker235937
Waseca231221
Martin212529
Wabasha19953
Roseau197318
Renville172043
Hubbard171841
Dodge17123
Redwood166435
Houston162614
Cottonwood156821
Fillmore15169
Pennington150619
Chippewa145836
Wadena144021
Faribault143419
Sibley135710
Kanabec130621
Aitkin128636
Watonwan12549
Rock122719
Jackson117310
Yellow Medicine110419
Pipestone109725
Murray10229
Pope10226
Swift99518
Marshall85617
Stevens82010
Lake78419
Clearwater77414
Koochiching76913
Wilkin76812
Lac qui Parle73522
Big Stone5644
Lincoln5592
Grant5478
Norman5229
Mahnomen5048
Unassigned49578
Kittson46622
Red Lake3877
Traverse3595
Lake of the Woods3053
Cook1450

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 357796

Reported Deaths: 5821
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk55970604
Linn20297330
Scott19082234
Black Hawk15550306
Woodbury14897221
Johnson1404281
Dubuque13153202
Dallas1089196
Pottawattamie10747162
Story1031147
Warren555186
Clinton537390
Cerro Gordo521986
Webster508291
Sioux506073
Marshall477174
Muscatine459896
Des Moines441465
Wapello4253120
Buena Vista421740
Jasper407670
Plymouth397079
Lee368155
Marion354575
Jones293055
Henry286137
Bremer279260
Carroll279151
Crawford262040
Boone258533
Benton250355
Washington249550
Dickinson242043
Mahaska224850
Jackson217942
Kossuth212663
Clay211025
Tama206671
Delaware202839
Winneshiek194433
Page190321
Buchanan188831
Cedar183823
Fayette182941
Wright180435
Hardin179942
Hamilton178049
Harrison176373
Clayton167055
Butler162534
Mills158620
Cherokee157138
Floyd155342
Lyon154741
Madison153919
Poweshiek152733
Allamakee149051
Iowa145524
Hancock143534
Winnebago136031
Grundy135232
Cass134354
Calhoun133211
Jefferson130635
Emmet128840
Shelby128337
Sac127219
Louisa126849
Appanoose126747
Mitchell125241
Union124032
Chickasaw122615
Humboldt118326
Guthrie117929
Franklin112721
Palo Alto110922
Howard102822
Montgomery100637
Unassigned10030
Clarke98223
Keokuk94530
Monroe94128
Ida89633
Adair84532
Pocahontas83621
Monona81230
Davis79924
Greene76710
Osceola75516
Lucas74923
Worth7078
Taylor65212
Fremont6139
Decatur5899
Van Buren55518
Ringgold53623
Wayne52123
Audubon4949
Adams3284
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