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New acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker has given no indication he believes he needs to step aside from overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election meddling, one person familiar with his thinking told CNN Thursday.

That belief is echoed by White House officials who also do not believe Whitaker needs to recuse himself, sources tell CNN.

There has been much speculation about whether Whitaker will recuse himself given his past criticism of the investigation.

The Washington Post reported Thursday about Whitaker's position, also noting that people close to him do not believe he would approve Mueller seeking a subpoena of President Donald Trump.

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From a practical standpoint, one of the sources said, it would defeat the entire purpose of naming him as acting attorney general since Trump railed against Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation.

While Whitaker has made questionable comments that could create the appearance of a conflict of interest, there isn't a legal conflict. Even if ethics advisers at the Justice Department suggest he step aside, Whitaker is not obligated to follow the advice, sources explained.

One senior White House official noted that the Sessions situation was different. As a campaign surrogate, Sessions was arguably "substantially involved in the conduct that is the subject of the investigation," according to Justice Department regulations. Whitaker's writings do not fall under that requirement.



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