Pres. Trump calls Whitaker 'very highly respected man'

US Department of Justice seal / (MGN)
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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation and changes at the Department of Justice (all times local):

9:50 a.m.

President Donald Trump is calling acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker "a very highly respected man" as he faces criticism about his appointment to replace Jeff Sessions.

Trump said Friday "I don't know Matt Whitaker" and said he didn't speak with Whitaker about special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe.

Whitaker has made public comments critical of Mueller's investigation, and critics have called on Whitaker to recuse himself from oversight of the inquiry, which under Sessions was overseen by deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein (ROH'-zen-styn).

Trump says of the scrutiny Whitaker is facing: "It's a shame that no matter who I put in they go after," adding, "You didn't have any problems with Matt Whitaker when he worked for Jeff Sessions."

Whitaker was the Justice Department chief of staff before Trump made him Sessions' interim replacement.


12:45 a.m.

The White House is bracing for the probe of Donald Trump's presidential campaign to fire up again. Trump's advisers are privately expressing worries that the special counsel has been quietly compiling information and could soon issue new indictments or a harsh final report.

Trump abruptly altered the chain of command above Mueller on Wednesday, putting his work under the supervision of a Republican loyalist who has been openly skeptical of the special counsel's authority and has mused about ways to curtail his power. But associates say Trump and his aides are concerned about Mueller's next move with the work that is complete.

Mueller kept a low profile for the past month as voters were mulling their choices for this week's elections.

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