President Trump does not exactly have a good track record with respect to high level appointments – do you remember Ronny L. Jackson? and the early installation of Matthew G. Whitaker as Acting Attorney General seems to be on top.
Since Whitaker was hired to replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was dismissed on Wednesday, the red flags have risen. And in almost every important aspect of the withdrawal of Sessions and the appointment of Whitaker – its legality, appearance, prosecution and past – Whitaker's background – these alarm signals are important.
The first problem was the timing. Doing this the day after the mid-term elections dispelled any doubt that it had been delayed for political reasons and then as soon as possible. The sessions would have stayed until Friday, but the White House chief of staff, John F. Kelly, said no.
Why was it? It is important to note that the Department of Justice is trying to do nothing publicly in the weeks leading up to the election. That's why the counsel for the special advocate, Robert S. Mueller III, was calm. But this leaves open the possibility that notable actions are pending, and Friday is usually the day the indictments are revealed. It is not illogical to think that Trump wanted Whitaker to monitor the investigation of Russia before potential charges against Roger Stone and even Donald Trump Jr. were returned, or whatever.
Which is speculative. But it is not at all difficult to present Whitaker as a stooge for Trump within the Department of Justice – or at least for someone from Trump. was know how to stand on important issues related to Russia. Thanks to his brief career as an analyst, Whitaker has sided with Trump on many aspects of the investigation of Russia. He even appeared to be missing Trump Jr. from any wrongdoing at the Trump Tower meeting – "You'd always be having this meeting," Whitaker told CNN last year – and was referring to someone in the situation where he was sitting. is currently defusing the Mueller probe. At one point, Whitaker even seemed to suggest that Russia did not intervene at all – a position that disagreed with the consensus of the US intelligence community, but perhaps a music for Trump's ears.
Whitaker's comments may well be those of the representative Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) And Republican allies of Trump House House; This is not what you expect from someone who is ready to make some extremely heavy decisions on the Mueller probe. Whitaker made these statements without knowing the type of evidence that Mueller has available, which is called prejudging a case, but he does not intend to recuse himself as he does. did Sessions. Even though he can neutrally monitor the investigation of Russia from now on, the simple appearance Prejudice is problematic. We will never know if Trump Jr. would have been indicted without Whitaker as AG, but this issue will continue. We will never really know.
Whitaker's comment, however, is not the only problem with his antecedents. As well as his work on the board of an invention support company, World Patent Marketing, has been referred to by the Federal Trade Commission as a scam. Carol D. Leonnig, Rosalind S. Helderman and Robert O. Harrow, of The Post .:
Whatever the concept, regardless of the banality or improbability found by the investigators, the seller would consider the idea fantastic and encourage the customer to pay for the placing on the market of a package and to patent the idea, as the documents show.
According to the FTC, many people have become indebted or have lost their life savings.
Whitaker has never been personally charged with wrongdoing, and the company has not acknowledged any; a regulation did not force him to do so. But these are all issues that would be of significant interest in a confirmation hearing. Because of Trump's maneuver and Whitaker's "acting" status – which could allow him to serve more than 200 days – we will never get a thorough public audit of the man who heads the Department of Justice.
Which brings us to the next problem: if this appointment is even legal. George Conway (husband of White House advisor Kellyanne Conway) and former solicitor general Neal Katyal said Thursday in the New York Times that this was not the case. They argue convincingly that the Constitution explicitly requires that key US government officials – that is, those without a superior, except the president – be confirmed:
A senior officer must be confirmed by the Senate. And that has a very important consequence today.
This means that Trump's installation of Matthew Whitaker as Acting Attorney General of the United States after forcing the resignation of Jeff Sessions is unconstitutional. It's illegal. And that means that everything Mr. Whitaker does or attempts to do in this position is invalid.
In times of crisis, acting appointments must be made. Cabinet members are dying and wars and other tragic events are happening. It is very difficult to see how the current situation adapts to these situations. And even if it did, officials, including the Deputy Attorney General and Solicitor General, were appointed by Mr. Trump and confirmed by the Senate. One or the other could intervene as Acting Attorney General, both constitutionally and statutorily.
Add to that the problems of appearance, background and timing, and the appointment of Whitaker covers the entire spectrum. Which made it interesting on Friday morning when Trump seemed to distance himself from Whitaker.
"I do not know Matt Whitaker," Trump said to whether he had talked to Whitaker about Mueller's investigation. "Matt Whitaker has worked for Jeff Sessions, and he has always been extremely appreciated and still is."
It's not true that Trump does not know Whitaker. He reportedly attended several Oval Office meetings with Trump, alongside Sessions. But more importantly, why does Trump distance himself? The most likely explanation is that he does not want it to give the impression of putting his guy in a position to influence the investigation on his own campaign. But it also seems possible for Trump to see the growing questions about Whitaker's past and want to make sure they will not come back and bite him. At the very least, it would seem that Whitaker's chances of getting the full-time job are low.
The set raises many questions – almost every aspect of it – and Trump does not have the right answers.