Matthew Whitaker's role as acting attorney general may be short-lived, and that's not just Democrats talking. "I don't know Matt Whitaker," Trump said Friday before flying off to France—a noticeable change from his October statement on Fox News that Whitaker is "a great guy." At the same time, Sen. Mitch McConnell said "I think this will be a very interim AG" and Sen. Susan Collins expressed concern over Whitaker's past remarks, the AP reports. She also wants legislative limits on how special counsel Robert Mueller can be fired, including the stipulation that only a Justice Dept. official confirmed by the Senate can do it. Whitaker, of course, isn't Senate-confirmed. Why the fuss over Whitaker?
- The scam: For one thing, Whitaker was a paid advisory-board member of a Florida company at a time when it allegedly scammed customers out of $26 million, the Wall Street Journal reports. World Patent Marketing Inc. charged people thousands to promote and patent their inventions, but did nothing for them, per the Federal Trade Commission. The FBI is investigating.
- Gay persecution? Iowa state Sen. Matt McCoy says Whitaker headed a politically motivated prosecution against him that was "devastating." As US attorney for Iowa's Southern District, Whitaker had McCoy investigated over what later appeared to be a $2,000 business matter, per CNN. McCoy, the state's first openly gay legislator, was found not guilty by a jury in 90 minutes—which included their lunch time. Whitaker "was very much resentful of my lifestyle and I believe that played a factor in it," says McCoy.
- Jews and atheists: Whitaker said in 2014 that judges lacking a "Biblical view of justice" shouldn't be on the federal bench, Newsweek recalls. Asked whether he meant "Levitical or New Testament"—a way of separating Jews from Christians—he said, "I'm New Testament." Whitaker also cast doubt on judges with a "secular worldview," saying, "I'm going to be very concerned about how they judge." Whitaker was seeking Iowa's GOP Senate nomination at the time.
- The Dems: Whitaker's appointment "does violence to the constitution and the vision of our founders to appoint such a person in such a manner to be the chief legal officer in our country," says Rep. Nancy Pelosi, per the Guardian. "And that's bipartisan."
- More Dems: Senate Democrats are mulling whether to sue Trump on the grounds that he named Whitaker unconstitutionally—disregarding the proper line of succession and denying senators their role to give advice and consent with certain appointments, Reuters reports.
- Private tweets: Whitaker made his Twitter account private days after he was named acting AG, per Fortune. The Trump loyalist has tweeted that legislation to protect Mueller "would be a mistake" and re-tweeted an op-ed that referred to the "Mueller lynch mob."
Reacting to an op-ed
against Whitaker, Trump asked about its co-author: "Who? You mean Mr. Kellyanne Conway?"
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