A top adviser to Attorney General Merrick Garland is facing calls to recuse herself from the Justice Department’s investigation of the Trump-Russia probe, which has looked into the actions of her husband, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.
Margaret Goodlander serves as counsel to Garland, who oversees Special Counsel John Durham’s investigation. Garland has oversight of Durham’s budget, the scope of the investigation, and the release of a report Durham is believed to be writing. Sullivan, who married Goodlander in 2015, has been referenced in Durham’s indictment of a cybersecurity lawyer who worked for the Clinton campaign. While there is no indication that Durham is targeting Sullivan, the national security adviser could be a witness for the investigation given that he was a foreign policy adviser to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. Durham’s report could also reveal embarrassing details about Sullivan’s work on the campaign to dig up dirt on Donald Trump’s possible links to Russia.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) and the watchdog group Empower Oversight say Goodlander should be formally recused from the Durham investigation to maintain public trust in the probe.
“The Justice Department’s standing guidance calls for employees to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest, especially when it comes to ongoing criminal investigations,” said Grassley, the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“It’s in Garland’s best interest—and he’s obligated—to be transparent about whether his department is walling off officials who have a real or even perceived conflict, just as prior administrations have done,” Grassley told the Washington Free Beacon.
Jason Foster, the founder and president of Empower Oversight, said the decline in public confidence in the Justice Department makes it “critical that decisions about Special Counsel Durham’s investigation are insulated from the political biases and personal interests of senior DOJ officials.”
“It would be no imposition on [Goodlander] or AG Garland to simply recuse herself from providing any advice to him in relation to that investigation—and thus reassure the public that she will continue to have no role in the future,” Foster told the Free Beacon.
Grassley and Empower Oversight have pressed the Justice Department over the recusal of another official, Susan Hennessey, who has pushed the false claim that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia. Hennessey, who serves in the national security division, last year criticized Durham’s investigation, calling it “partisan silliness.”