WASHINGTON – Pressure is mounting for acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker to recuse himself in the Russia investigation as special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation appears to be winding down.
Mueller is reportedly writing his final report on his investigation that's cast a cloud over the Trump administration. President Donald Trump is expected to send written answers to Mueller's questions by the end of the month.
All this comes as his acting attorney general assumes control of the probe, but Democrats are calling on Whitaker to recuse himself because of his past comments about the investigation.
Appearing on a CNN panel before taking a job at the Department of Justice as then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions' chief of staff, Whitaker said, "I could see a scenario where Jeff Sessions is replaced with a recess appointment and that attorney general doesn't fire Bob Mueller, but he just reduces his budget to so low that his investigation grinds to a halt."
The White House says the press is blowing a statement by a private citizen out of proportion, and President Trump himself insists he's never spoken with Whitaker about the probe.
"I didn't speak to Matt Whitaker about it, I don't know Matt Whitaker," Trump told reporters Friday.
Meanwhile, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee say Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein should continue oversight of the Mueller investigation.
They also sent a letter telling the Justice Department to preserve "all materials related to any investigations by the special counsel's office" and the "departure of Attorney General Sessions."
Former Justice Department official Ian Prior tells CBN News Whitaker should expect ongoing attacks.
"The biggest challenge for him is really going to be that the knives are out from Democrats. They are going to go after him and you are seeing it already. As soon as that announcement was made they starting calling for his recusal," Prior said in an interview Wednesday.
When asked if Whitaker should recuse himself, Prior said, "No, I think there is no reason to recuse. What? Because he has an impression what the Mueller investigation should look like is different from what Senate and House Democrats believe? Look, it's the Department of Justice investigation; it's not a congressional investigation. He's the acting attorney general."
With or without a recusal, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say Mueller's investigation should proceed without interference with Republicans, adding that it's gone on too long and Democrats applying the most heat.
"It would create a constitutional crisis if this were a prelude to ending or greatly limiting the Mueller investigation," said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
During an interview with CNN, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said, "I don't see it's a constitutional crisis just yet. It's a perilous time."
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) says there's no need for concern.
"To those who worry about the Mueller investigation, you need not worry. He'll be allowed to finish his job," he said.
We're also learning more about Whitaker's worldview. During a 2014 debate in Iowa when he ran for the Republican nomination for US senate, Whitaker reportedly said he'd like to see federal judicial nominees be "people of faith" with a "biblical view of justice."
He lost the primary to now Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA).
Under the law, Whitaker can remain as acting attorney general for seven months, which would likely put him in charge of the Mueller investigation until the end.
Among those the White House is considering to serve as Sessions' permanent replacement is former New Jersey governor and Trump supporter Chris Christie.
People close to Christie say if he's offered the job he will consider it seriously.
If Sen. Graham is appointed chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he says he'll make sure President Trump's appointee gets confirmed as soon as possible.