Hundreds of former Justice Department officials have signed a letter saying they are "disturbed" by President Trump's appointment of Matt Whitaker as acting attorney general. In the letter, circulated by the Protect Democracy watchdog group, more than 400 Justice alumni urge the president to "follow the constitutional process by nominating an attorney general, and replacing Mr. Whitaker as acting attorney general with the Senate-confirmed official who is next in the line of succession by operation of federal law." They warn that Whitaker's qualifications have not been publicly reviewed, he has not been confirmed by the Senate, and he has not been vetted for possible conflicts of interest.
It "falls to all of us," they write, to ensure the department's "role in maintaining the rule of law is not undermined or tainted." Protect Democracy describes itself as a nonpartisan group, and the letter states that the signatories "served under Senate-confirmed attorneys general who come from both political parties," NBC News reports. The letter says the responsibilities of the position require somebody who has been subject to the "strictest scrutiny" as required by the Constitution, though Justice Department officials have argued that Whitaker's former position as Jeff Sessions' chief of staff "unquestionably" qualifies him for the role, reports USA Today. (Advocacy groups are asking questions about Whitaker's financial disclosures.)