President Donald Trump on Friday attempted to distance himself from his new acting attorney general, Matthew Whitaker, a Republican Party loyalist who will now oversee special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible ties between Russia and the president’s 2016 campaign.
Whitaker, who was elevated to the post on Wednesday after Trump forced out Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has faced pressure from Democrats to recuse himself from overseeing the probe because of critical comments he made about the investigation before joining the Justice Department last year.
Sessions’s former chief of staff wrote an op-ed in which he said Mueller would be straying outside his mandate if he investigated Trump family finances and asserted in a talk radio interview that there was no evidence of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.
Asked about Whitaker on Friday, Trump told journalists: “I don’t know Matt Whitaker. Matt Whitaker worked for Jeff Sessions, and he was always extremely highly thought of, and he still is. But I didn’t know Matt Whitaker. He worked for Attorney General Sessions.”
President Trump: "Well, Matt Whitaker, I don't know Matt Whitaker…" pic.twitter.com/OHVZxbjwdq
— CSPAN (@cspan) November 9, 2018
NBC News White House correspondent Peter Alexander noted that months earlier, Trump had told ‘Fox & Friends” that he knows Matt Whitaker:
Trump, today: “Well, Matt Whitaker. I don’t know Matt Whitaker.”
Trump, on Fox & Friends, October 11: “I can tell you Matt Whitaker is a great guy, I know Matt Whitaker.”
— Peter Alexander (@PeterAlexander) November 9, 2018
Trump today: "I don't know Matt Whitaker. He worked for Jeff Sessions … but I didn't know Matt Whitaker"
Trump on Fox & Friends a month ago: "I can tell you Matt Whitaker's a great guy, I know Matt Whitaker"
It's almost like he lies about everything. pic.twitter.com/uw5KSMwLML
— Lis Power (@LisPower1) November 9, 2018