UPDATED 6:27 AM PT — Wednesday, February 20, 2019
President Trump is refuting claims made in a New York Times report that he asked then-acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker to replace the prosecutor in charge of Michael Cohen’s case in New York.
While in the Oval Office Tuesday, the president denied having made the request to Whitaker to put U.S. attorney Geoffrey Berman in charge of the Michael Cohen hush money payments case in the Southern District of New York.
“There’s a lot of fake news out there — no, I didn’t,” President Trump told reporters.
According to reports, Berman is a known Trump ally and has recused himself from the Southern District’s investigation.
The New York Times report said that Whitaker knew Berman could not unrecuse himself, which allegedly caused the president to grow frustrated that Whitaker could not control the New York probe. However, the president went on to praise his interim attorney general at the White House, which shows he has a cordial relationship with Whitaker.
“I have a lot of respect for Mr. Whitaker, I think he’s done a great job, he’s a very, very straight shooter I watched him during the hearing,” said President Trump. “Some of it I thought he was exceptional, he’s a very fine man and he should be given a lot of thanks by our nation.”
In a statement from the Justice Department, a spokesperson said, “the White House has not asked Whitaker to interfere in any investigations.”
Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee are now reportedly investigating whether Whitaker committed perjury after he said the president never lashed out at him over conversations he had regarding cases in New York’s Southern District.