Attorney General Jeff Sessions tendered his resignation on Wednesday at the request of President Trump, and his acting replacement, Matthew Whitaker, is alarming Democrats and Special Counsel Robert Mueller loyalists across the country.
Whitaker, 48, joined the Department of Justice as Sessions’ chief of staff in October 2017 and has previously spoken out against the Mueller investigation and the handling of Hillary Clinton’s email investigation, leading to many Democrats already calling for his recusal from the Russia investigation.
“Given his previous comments advocating defunding and imposing limitations on the Mueller investigation, Mr. Whitaker should recuse himself from its oversight for the duration of his time as acting attorney general,” said New York Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer.
However, DOJ spokeswoman Sarah Flores confirmed Wednesday that Whitaker would oversee the Mueller investigation, telling reporters, “The Acting Attorney General is in charge of all matters under the purview of the Department of Justice.”
Read the below list of Whitaker’s statements that have Democrats crying foul:
- In an August 2017 op-ed for CNN.com, Whitaker argued that the Mueller investigation was “dangerously close” to crossing a red line in the Russia probe:
According to a CNN article, Mueller’s investigators could be looking into financial records relating to the Trump Organization that are unrelated to the 2016 election. According to these reports, “sources described an investigation that has widened to focus on possible financial crimes, some unconnected to the 2016 election.” The piece goes on to cite law enforcement sources who say non-Russia-related leads that “involve Trump associates” are being referred to the special counsel “to encourage subjects of the investigation to cooperate.”
This information is deeply concerning to me. It does not take a lawyer or even a former federal prosecutor like myself to conclude that investigating Donald Trump’s finances or his family’s finances falls completely outside of the realm of his 2016 campaign and allegations that the campaign coordinated with the Russian government or anyone else. That goes beyond the scope of the appointment of the special counsel.
- In July 2017, Whitaker appeared on CNN where he suggested that a new Attorney General could reduce Mueller’s budget to grind the investigation to a halt:
“Those same codes of special regulations govern the budget of the Special Counsel and that is well within the power of the Attorney General. So I could see a scenario where Jeff Sessions is replaced with a recess appointment and that Attorney General doesn’t fire Bob Mueller, but he just reduces his budget so low that his investigation grinds to almost a halt”
- In May of 2017, Whitaker wrote an op-ed for The Hill in which he lauded President Trump’s decision to fire then-FBI director James Comey and stated that as a former federal prosecutor, he would have prosecuted Hillary Clinton for her private email server:
(Comey) served his country honorably for those years, but he also became so embroiled in the heated politics of the 2016 election and its aftermath that change was needed. President Trump made the right decision.
Comey’s announcement last July that he would not recommend prosecution of Hillary Clinton for violations of the Espionage Act were a shock to many in law enforcement both inside the FBI and out. Immediately prior to that surprise announcement he held court before the media laying out what seemed to be the rationale for bringing such a case forward.
Then his pronouncement that “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring such a case was just wrong, and I said so publicly at the time. I was a federal prosecutor for five years and was proud to serve in the Department of Justice, and I would’ve brought that case.
- On July 5, 2016–the same day then-FBI Director James Comey cleared Hillary Clinton of any wrongdoing as it relates to her email server and classified information–Whitaker argued in a USA Today op-ed that he would have indicted the former Secretary of State:
One statute that Secretary Clinton could be charged with violating is 18 U.S.C. section 793(f). Under this section, a prosecutor must prove that:
•The person had lawful possession of information relating to national defense.
•Through gross negligence that person permits that information to be removed from its proper place of custody (or given to someone else, or lost, or stolen).
Although it might be intuitive that a secretary of State lawfully possess information that relates to national defense, the facts laid out by Director Comey also establish that this is exactly the type of information in this case.
Of the emails either turned over or recovered by the FBI, 110 contained information that was classified at the time it was sent or received, of which eight email chains contained information that was top secret at the time it was sent.
The facts also show it was gross negligence when she removed the information from State Department security. Secretary Clinton made the decision to use a personal email system, one that had inferior security to the State Department’s or even another commercial vendor’s email service.
- Whitaker has tweeted about the Mueller Investigation in the past, citing an Andy McCarthy National Review article which suggests Mueller is using scorched earth tactics to get former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort to turn on the President:
In 2004, Whitaker was appointed by President Bush as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa and, in 2014, ran in the Iowa GOP Senate primary, but lost to Joni Ernst.
Whitaker was managing partner of the Des Moines, Iowa law firm, Whitaker Hagenow & Gustoff LLP from November 2009 to September 2017.