Washington (CNN)As he was preparing to remove Jeff Sessions as attorney general, President Donald Trump had already begun reviewing with his lawyers the written answers to questions from special counsel Robert Mueller.
Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker once argued that an American president had such broad executive power that they could order any federal investigation be stopped without obstructing justice.
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In a 2017 interview on The David Webb Show, first reported by Mother Jones, Whitaker argued that, amid reports Trump had asked former FBI Director James Comey to drop an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, there was no case for obstruction of justice regardless of President Donald Trumps motives because the president is entitled to make such calls with his inherent authority.
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The interview came shortly after Comey was fired by Trump and while Whitaker, then the head of a conservative nonprofit group, was a regular commentator on right-leaning media.
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, Whitaker argued. The president could, and has in our nations history, said stop investigating this person or please investigate this other person.
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He continued: This hyperventilation of what we see here is not sustainable based on these facts.
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Whitaker has already come under fire for deeply critical views of special counsel Robert Muellers probe that hed made in the past. In an interview with CNN in 2017, he argued that the inquiry could be kneecapped if the attorney general just reduces his budget so low that the investigation grinds almost to a halt. In a separate editorial for CNN, he wrote that Muellers team had already gone too close to a red-line during the scope of the probe.
A reasonable prosecutor may ask, if on numerous occasions, an unknown State Department employee had taken top secret information from a secured system, emailed that information on a Gmail account, and stored the information on a personal server for years, would that individual be prosecuted? I believe they would.
It is time for Rosenstein, who is the acting attorney general for the purposes of this investigation, to order Mueller to limit the scope of his investigation to the four corners of the order appointing him special counsel. Whitaker wrote. If he doesnt, then Muellers investigation will eventually start to look like a political fishing expedition.
Some prominent legal scholars have already lambasted the choice of Whitaker, including George Conway, the husband of White House adviser Kellyanne Conway. In an op-ed for The New York Times on Thursday, George Conway argued that the appointment was unconstitutional and accused the president of seeking to evade requirements that an attorney general be confirmed by the Senate.
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Its illegal. And it means that anything Mr. Whitaker does, or tries to do, in that position is invalid, Conway wrote with former acting U.S. Solicitor General Neal K. Katyal.
Whitaker is legally allowed to serve as acting attorney general for no more than 210 days under the Vacancies Reform Act but could be in the post longer while another individuals nomination is pending, according to the Times.
Into Sessions’s office has stepped Matthew Whitaker, who before becoming the attorney general’s chief of staff was a political commentator on news programs, heard criticizing Mueller’s probe, calling it a dangerous overreach. He suggested on CNN in 2017 that a temporary AG could halt the investigation by choking off its funding. He also opined that investigating Trump’s finances would be a “red line,” according to the Washington Post. He urged Rod Rosenstein, the number two attorney in the AG’s office and the Justice official who oversaw Mueller and his team in Sessions’s stead, to limit their scope.