President Donald Trump forced former Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign on Wednesday, replacing him with Matt Whitaker.
The startling move came just one day after the 2018 midterm elections. Whitaker will be acting Attorney General until Trump selects a permanent replacement.
We are pleased to announce that Matthew G. Whitaker, Chief of Staff to Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the Department of Justice, will become our new Acting Attorney General of the United States. He will serve our Country well….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 7, 2018
Sessions had famously recused himself of overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, a duty that then fell upon deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein.
After his appointment, however, it is Whitaker who will assume temporary oversight.
Who is Matt Whitaker?
Whitaker is a former attorney from Iowa, a Trump loyalist that the New York Times described as the White House’s “eyes and ears” in the Justice Department. He made a failed attempt to run for Senate in 2014.
He then served as executive director of conservative watchdog the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT). During that time he launched several attacks on former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, the president’s 2016 election Democratic rival, aligning himself with Trump’s position.
In a 2017 article for The Hill, he urged an investigation into Clinton’s ties to Ukraine and, in a press release for FACT, which stopped just short of calls to “lock her up,” Whitaker wrote of the “strong case to bring against” Clinton over her the use of private email servers.
“The most disturbing aspect of Hillary Clinton’s continued blame game is that she still doesn’t think there was anything wrong with recklessly handling highly sensitive and classified information,” he wrote.
Campaign in works for (too) long?– spring 2014, Clinton talking to JP about campaign chairmanhttp://t.co/Jc8gHATqeY pic.twitter.com/CEqVUeQmYZ
— Matt Whitaker (@MattWhitaker46) April 12, 2015
Whitaker has also publicly slammed the Mueller’s investigation, even repeating the president’s famous “witch hunt” criticism. Now, Trump has trusted him with oversight of it.
In the month before the administration announced he would be joining the Justice Department, in September 2017, Whitaker penned a CNN op-ed blasting the scope of the Mueller investigation and Rosenstein’s oversight.
“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,” it reads. “That goes beyond the scope of the appointment of the special counsel.”
On Twitter, Whitaker has regularly pushed critical coverage of Mueller’s probe.
Worth a read. "Note to Trump's lawyer: Do not cooperate with Mueller lynch mob" https://t.co/a1YY9H94Ma via @phillydotcom
— Matt Whitaker (@MattWhitaker46) August 7, 2017
Article is correct, it will be very difficult to ever see evidence discovered by #Mueller grand jury investigation https://t.co/aNKBmi5xI2
— Matt Whitaker (@MattWhitaker46) August 17, 2017
Trump’s fondness for Whitaker became explicitly clear in September this year, when it was revealed he was on Trump’s shortlist for White House Counsel. His name was also one of several thrown around that month as a possible replacement deputy attorney general, amid rumors that Rosenstein was going to be fired.
- CNN reporter’s microphone spat devolves into partisan fight online
- Trump’s ‘hot White House’ claim gets roasted on Twitter
- ‘Games of Thrones’ stars respond to Trump’s ‘sanctions are coming’ meme
Then, last month, the Washington Post reported that Trump had chatted with Whitaker about replacing Sessions.
It’s not hard to track Whitaker’s rise to acting attorney general, but it’s interesting to note how his career promotions came his way the louder he publicly echoed the president’s own ideas.
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