Matthew Whitaker, the new acting attorney general, gave President Trump private advice last year on how the White House might be able to convince the Department of Justice to appoint a special counsel to investigate possible corruption by Hillary Clinton, according to a report Friday.
Trump wanted the Justice Department to investigate what role Clinton played in approving the controversial “Uranium One” deal while she was secretary of state, and Whitaker, who served as chief of staff to then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions before being appointed this week to temporarily fill his former boss’s role, was “committed to extract as much as he could from the Justice Department on the president’s behalf,” Vox reported.
In 2010, a Russian state-owned energy company acquired a major stake in Canadian-based Uranium One, which had mining licenses for about a fifth of U.S. uranium extraction capacity. The Obama administration approved the deal while Clinton led the State Department and special counsel Robert Mueller was FBI director.
Individuals with connections to Uranium One donated millions to the Clinton Foundation, and former President Bill Clinton was paid $500,000 from a Russian bank to give a speech in Moscow in 2010.
Trump’s administration began pressing for answers about the deal last year after an FBI criminal investigation led to no charges, according to NBC News.
To appease Trump, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and other Justice Department officials settled on a compromise that Sessions would appoint John Huber, the U.S. attorney in Utah, to review the department’s earlier investigation. If he found evidence of wrongdoing, he could recommend the appointment of a special counsel or the opening of a criminal investigation, Vox reports.
In his new role, Whitaker will have oversight of Mueller’s investigation, taking over for Rosenstein, who had been in charge of the investigation’s oversight after Sessions recused himself last year.
Whitaker has been critical of the Mueller investigation, writing an op-ed for CNN in 2017 headlined, “Mueller’s investigation of Trump is going too far.”