The recent appointment of Matt Whitaker as acting Attorney General following the forced resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions has caused many to fear that it means the shutdown of Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Since Matt Whitaker is not particularly qualified for the position of attorney general, acting or otherwise, some fear that Whitaker was appointed for the express purpose of not only ending the Russia probe, but firing Robert Mueller.
Fueling speculation is the fact that, in addition to Matt Whitaker’s lack of qualifications for his new role, Whitaker has openly criticized the Mueller investigation (which he will now oversee).
In an interview with CNN in 2017, when Whitaker was a CNN contributor, he talked of a scenario where the person who replaced Jeff Sessions could decrease Mueller’s budget “so low that his investigation grinds to almost a halt.”
Also on CNN, Matt Whitaker insisted that Mueller’s investigation would amount to nothing, and that Mueller was crossing a “red line” by investigating the financial ties between the Trump Organization and Russia. Further, he held that no wrongdoing had occurred when Donald Trump Junior met with a Russian attorney to discuss Hillary Clinton.
In early November 2018, in a CNN editorial, Whitaker said that Mueller’s probe might end up “a mere witch hunt.”
“Mueller has come up to a red line in the Russia 2016 election-meddling investigation that he is dangerously close to crossing,” wrote Whitaker.
Even if Matt Whitaker were the impartial overseer of the Mueller investigation that the law requires, the inappropriate partiality, as well as questionable ethics of some of his other activities would, under any other circumstances, be disqualifying.
In a recent example, the Office of Special Counsel was recently called on to investigate Whitaker for allegedly violating the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees’ political activity. While he was Chief of Staff and Senior Counselor under Jeff Sessions, Whitaker received several political donations. Whitaker’s 2014 U.S. Senate campaign committee was found to be currently active, and took in almost $9,000 in political contributions in early 2018.
As the top law enforcement official of the United States, Matt Whitaker should be an impartial overseer of federal investigations. As chief legal principal, he should be above reproach. Matt Whitaker is neither. Until a permanent Attorney General is appointed, it looks as if the fate of Robert Mueller’s Russia probe lies in Whitaker’s hands – and could be in peril.
Kellyanne Conway on Matt Whitaker, Russia probe | Fox News [2018-11-11]
Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker meeting with ethics officials |
CBS News [2018-11-13]