Acting AG Whitaker has thoughts on Muellers Russia probe

Acting AG Whitaker has thoughts on Mueller\s Russia probe

Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker Once Expressed Terrifying View Of Executive Power

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.

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.

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.

After Trumps election, Christie was a favorite to head the Justice Department, but took no role in the administration. Hes been largely absent from politics since ending his term as governor. 

Is a Mueller report coming? Not necessarily.

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.

The belief that Mueller will issue a report stems from the widely held view in the Department of Justice and the broader legal community that the indictment of a president in office is unconstitutional. A memorandum on the subject prepared by the Justice Departments Office of Legal Counsel in 2000 flatly declared, the indictment or criminal prosecution of a sitting president would unconstitutionally undermine the capacity of the executive branch to perform its constitutionally assigned functions. This consensus opinion, however, is not unanimous; a memorandum prepared by Kenneth Starrs independent counsel investigation in the 1990s took the opposite view.

He continued: This hyperventilation of what we see here is not sustainable based on these facts.

The assumptions about Muellers reluctance to directly indict Trump coupled with the Jaworski and Starr precedents have left the press eagerly tracking rumors of one or more reports from the special counsels Russia probe. A Washington Post story in April of this year, for instance, said Mueller had told Trumps lawyers that he is preparing a report about the presidents actions while in office and potential obstruction of justice. A New York Times story in May, which was based on claims made by former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, Trumps legal spokesman, reported that he hoped to complete his obstruction inquiry by Sept. 1.

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. 

The bigger question may be whether Trump even allows the Mueller investigation to continue at all. It is unclear whether Whitaker will recuse himself as Sessions did. However, given his past comments and personal ties, there has been rampant speculation that Whitaker could curtail Muellers investigation. High-ranking former Justice Department officials and other commentators have raised doubts about the constitutionality of Trumps appointment of Whitaker. Those doubts could form the substance of legal challenge to the validity of any moves Whitaker might make to curtail the investigation.

Video: James Clapper: Why I think Trump picked Sessions replacement

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.

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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.

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.

Christie has said on numerous occasions that he believes Trump has been “ill-served” by some of his top advisers; he is also a critic of the special counsel probe into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Sessions recused himself from the probe, a decision that rankled the president.

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.

If the House Judiciary Committee of incoming chairman Jerrold Nadler wishes to impeach Trump for forcing Mueller to fish or cut bait, Trump’s allies should broaden the debate to the real motivation here of the defeated establishment: It detests the man the American people chose to lead their country and thus wants to use its political and cultural power to effect his removal.


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