A personal connection to a Mueller witness is unlikely to sway Whitaker or the White House when it comes to recusal, as Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein supervised the probe despite being a witness himself.
Whitaker, in a Justice Department statement released on Wednesday evening said, "I am committed to leading a fair department with the highest ethical standards, that upholds the rule of law, and seeks justice for all Americans".
The special counsel's office upheld a long-standing Justice Department guideline that calls for discretion in taking legal or law enforcement measures within 60 days of an election in an effort to avoid the impression of attempting to sway voters. In the past, senior Justice Department officials tend to follow such advice, but they are rarely required to do so, according to officials familiar with the process.
A spokeswoman for Goodlatte had no comment on the letter.
"He's political to his core", a friend said of Whitaker.
The president's attorney Rudy Giuliani told the Washington Post in August that, if Trump is subpoenaed to testify, they are ready to 'argue it before the Supreme Court'. Mueller and Trump's lawyers have negotiated for months about a possible interview, with no agreement in sight.
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions stand for the national anthem at a graduation ceremony at the FBI Academy on the grounds of Marine Corps Base Quantico in Quantico, Virginia, U.S. December 15, 2017.More news: Facebook deletes 115 accounts 'trying to interfere with mid-terms'
But the relationship was irreparably damaged in March 2017 when Sessions, acknowledging previously undisclosed meetings with the Russian ambassador and citing his work as a campaign aide, recused himself from the Russia investigation.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday said that acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker should recuse himself from overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. He has questioned the Russian Federation probe's scope and spoken publicly before joining the Justice Department about ways an attorney general could theoretically stymie the investigation. Whitaker was hired as a CNN legal commentator a year ago for several months, before leaving the role in September 2017 to head to the Justice Department as chief of staff to now-former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
During a brief stint past year as a conservative legal commentator on CNN, Whitaker often appeared as a Trump defender, saying he saw no evidence the president colluded with Russians during the 2016 campaign or obstructed justice.
While Whitaker is now Mueller's ultimate supervisor, it was not immediately clear whether that meant Rosenstein would step aside. Christie was initially considered as a contender for the attorney general position during the transition.
Whitaker was virtually unknown to Sessions before becoming his chief of staff.
Sessions' departure - although not entirely unanticipated - came just hours after the midterm elections. Another person said that remained true ever after Whitaker took his place. His style rubbed many the wrong way, and at times Justice Department officials pushed back on his demands.