What’s Matt Whitaker Up To?

In case you’ve been vacationing on Jupiter, you may have missed the fact that acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker is under fire on multiple fronts.

He’s been sued on the long-established premise that a senior constitutional officer who has not been confirmed by the Senate cannot assume his duties when someone who has been duly confirmed (Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein) is available.

He’s also been the subject of an investigative piece pointing out that the Federal Trade Commission has gone after him for low-level sleaze, plus reports that he was paid over a million dollars from a shadowy foundation whose sole purpose seems to have been to pay Whitaker for a no-show job.

In principle, Whitaker gets to supervise every aspect of Mueller’s investigation. That would not only allow him to veto Mueller’s prosecutions, but give him access to information that he could pass along to Trump, showing him exactly what Mueller has on him. This was apparently Trump’s intention.

But according to Neal Katyal, who as solicitor general wrote the rules governing the special counsel 20 years ago, Whitaker can’t do that. Katyak recently wrote in The Washington Post:

No one—and I mean no one—ever thought the regulations we wrote would permit the president to install some staff member of his choice from the Justice Department to serve as acting attorney general and thereby oversee the special counsel. Such a proposal would have been laughed off Capitol Hill within a nanosecond as fundamentally at odds with the most cardinal principle that no one is above the law.

It simply cannot be that the president can name his own temporary attorney general to supervise an investigation in which he and his family have a direct, concrete interest.

Judging by the fact that Mueller has gone right on with his activities, highly damaging to Trump, either Mueller has told Whitaker to go take a hike, or—more likely—Whitaker hasn’t even dared try to meddle.

Looks like Whitaker’s latest no-show job is acting AG. We await Trump’s outraged tweets at Whitaker’s cowardice.

It will be instructive to read all about the byplay between Whitaker and Mueller when the new Congress convenes and the House Judiciary Committee calls Whitaker to testify. Score one for the deep state.

By |2018-12-03T21:29:04+00:00December 3rd, 2018|Kuttner on TAP|0 Comments

About the Author:

Robert Kuttner is co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect as well as a Demos Distinguished Senior Fellow. He was a longtime columnist for Business Week, and continues to write columns in the Boston Globe. He co-founded the Economic Policy Institute in Washington and serves on its executive committee.

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