Here Are 7 of the Most Damning Things Trump's New Acting Attorney General Has Said About the Special Counsel and Judicial Oversight
In the last 24 hours, the American people have quickly gotten to know Matthew Whitaker, a former U.S. Attorney and Justice Department chief of staff who President Donald Trump has chosen to take over from the abruptly fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions. And it is clear that Whitaker being in charge of the DOJ, even for a brief period, is an utter disaster for the fair enforcement of the law.
Here are some of the things that Whitaker has said:
- Robert Mueller should not be allowed to investigate Trump's finances.
In an editorial for CNN.com last year, Whitaker made clear that he believes the president's personal finances are off limits to special counsel Robert Mueller. "Mueller has come up to a red line in the Russia 2016 election-meddling investigation that he is dangerously close to crossing," he thundered. He added that any attempt to look into the finances of Trump or his family would suggest the probe is a "witch hunt."
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's appointment letter authorizing the special counsel investigation did not ban Mueller from investigating Trump's finances. In fact, it allows Mueller to pursue "any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation."
- The Russia investigation is a "lynch mob."
Last year, while serving as Sessions' chief of staff, Whitaker shared an article urging Trump's attorneys not to cooperate with the "Mueller lynch mob." "Worth a read," he tweeted.
For a "lynch mob," Mueller has so far produced a very methodical string of indictments, convictions, and guilty pleas from Trump's associates, and there is no shred of indication that anyone has been denied due process of law.
- There should be no special counsel investigation because what about Obama.
"Calls for an independent counsel or commission to investigate allegations that Russia tried to interfere with our elections ring hollow when similar calls for special counsels during the scandals of the Obama administration were dismissed out of hand by the same people making these demands now," Whitaker said.
- Hillary Clinton should have been prosecuted.
For all of Trump supporters' chants of "Lock her up!" sensible legal analysis has made clear that Hillary Clinton's email habits, while potentially careless, were not remotely a federal crime. Whitaker very vocally believes otherwise.
In an article for The Hill, Whitaker said that former FBI Director James Comey was "just wrong" to say that there was no case against her: "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." He also added that the fact Comey did not prosecute Trump's chief political opponent was sufficient grounds for Trump to fire him.
- We should have a religious test for federal judges.
In 2014, Whitaker ran for Senate in Iowa. During that campaign, one of his chief pledges at a GOP forum was that he would ask candidates for federal judgeships whether they are "people of faith" who had "a biblical view of justice."
Given that American law is based on a secular constitution rather than the Bible, and given that that constitution makes clear that religious tests for public office are invalid, this is a completely inappropriate thing to ask a judicial nominee.
- The Supreme Court is an "inferior branch" that should not have any authority over Congress.
Whitaker has criticized Marbury v. Madison, the foundational Supreme Court ruling that affirmed the existence of judicial review of the constitutionality of laws. "Unelected judges are deciding many of the issues of the day," he complained, adding that Marbury was a bad ruling and we should revisit the Court as "the final arbiter of constitutional issues."
Interestingly enough, however, in the same breath, he also said the Supreme Court should have repealed the New Deal and the Affordable Care Act — neither of which would be possible without Marbury.
- It is not obstruction of justice if the president does it.
In an interview with the David Webb Show, on audio obtained by Mother Jones, Whitaker essentially said that Trump can and should do whatever he wants with the Mueller investigation. "There is no case for obstruction of justice because the president has all the power of the executive and delegates that to people like the FBI director and the attorney general," said Whitaker. "The president could and has in our nation's history said stop investigating this person or please investigate this other person."
Whitaker's argument, a common one among Trump supporters, completely misses the point of what obstruction of justice is. No one is arguing Trump doesn't have the "power" to fire the FBI director or direct the Justice Department. Obstruction of justice is defined as an official using their power corruptly to prevent an illegal act from being investigated. Whitaker's notion, that it's not obstruction if the official is acting within their authority, would essentially mean there's no such thing as obstruction.
Taken together, these beliefs paint the picture of an extreme, dangerous partisan who does not belong at the levers of prosecutorial power.