Robert Mueller Breaks Silence on Matthew Whitaker’s Designation as Acting Attorney General

Pauline Gross
November 20, 2018

Denouncing President Donald Trump's appointment of acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker-a fervent critic of the Russian Federation probe-as a blatant effort to "subvert the Constitution to protect himself and evade accountability", three Democratic senators on Monday filed suit against the White House and demanded that Whitaker be barred from temporarily serving as the nation's top law enforcement official. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii. "President Trump is denying Senators our constitutional obligation and opportunity to do our job: scrutinizing the nomination of our nation's top law enforcement official".

"All of those arguments turn on the May 17, 2017 appointment of the Special Counsel and the legal and regulatory frameworks that existed at the time of appointment", Mueller said. Check back for updates.

The Muller team cites a Justice Department memo the Trump administration has pointed to in justifying its elevation of Whitaker, who has not been Senate confirmed since the George W. Bush years, to acting attorney general instead of a Senate confirmed official in the line of succession.

It is the most high-profile litigation so far to be brought challenging Whitaker's appointment.

The suit is the fourth legal challenge of Trump's appointment of Whitaker, following the ouster earlier this month of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whom Trump had long disparaged for removing himself from oversight of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

Representatives Denny Heck and Ron Wyden have decried Whitaker's promotion to acting AG "unconstitutional", adding he hasn't been subjected to Senate Confirmation.

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Whitaker has a deeply partisan career track record, has criticized the Mueller investigation and has even said judges should be Christian and take "a biblical view of justice". Joni Ernst (R-Iowa). In August 2017, he wrote a CNN op-ed arguing that "Mueller has come up to a red line in the Russian Federation 2016 election-meddling investigation that he is dangerously close to crossing" by reportedly looking into Trump's finances.

The lawsuit comes days after a Washington lawyer challenged Whitaker's appointment in a pending supreme court case dealing with gun rights.

In Monday's filing, Mueller also argues at length that the appeals court should not consider any new claims against his authority raised by Miller - who has not filed his supplemental briefing yet - in light of Whitaker's rise to acting attorney general.

The justice department issued a statement on Monday defending Whitaker's appointment as lawful.

"There are over 160 instances in American history in which non-Senate confirmed persons performed, on a temporary basis, the duties of a Senate-confirmed position", a Justice Department spokeswoman said. The designation is consistent with an opinion the department issued in 2003 and with "two centuries of practice".

Other reports by GizPress

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