President Trump’s appointment of Jeff Sessions’ chief of staff Matt Whitaker as acting attorney general to temporarily replace Jeff Sessions is generating a lot of hysterical screaming from Democrats, who will not accept anything less than a totally unfettered special counsel. Of course, Democrats in 2018 react with hysterical screaming to everything relating to Trump, so there’s little reason for Trump or his supporters to take them seriously.
To those who hate Trump, Robert Mueller is GOD, answerable to no one. He is omnipotent and, if they have their way, is on the path to being omniscient as well. The work of The Almighty must continue with no limits whatsoever until He finds some reason for a black mark in his Book Of Judgment that can serve as grounds for Trump’s removal from office. We’ve known for a long time that this is the only thing that matters to Trump’s political enemies. The Constitution means nothing to them unless they can use it to their own benefit.
To some, it even makes sense to upgrade deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to the top spot. After all, they argue, he’s already supervising the Mueller investigation (very loosely, it seems), so why not just make it official? They ignore the huge conflicts of interest that made it problematic –- even ludicrous –- for Rosenstein to be overseeing the special counsel in the first place. Rosenstein should have recused himself long ago, so it makes no sense to give him a promotion now.
As legal expert Andrew C. McCarthy points out, Whitaker is considered by some to be a Trump “loyalist,” based not on anything he has actually done but on their interpretations of what he has said. McCarthy makes the case that Whitaker has the credentials he should have for the job and seems to be a fine choice for this interim (“placeholder”) position –- perhaps even the permanent one. He’s hoping that Whitaker could steer the Mueller investigation to a prompt and proper conclusion, but, of course, his hope is the Democrats’ fear.
McCarthy allows that it’s not a good idea to have someone supervising an investigation that he’s commented on extensively, if only because it might tend to give the appearance of a lack of fairness or objectivity. At the same time, though, he says Whitaker hasn’t really had that much to say about the special counsel, the Democrats’ screaming notwithstanding.
There was the appearance on CNN in which Whitaker said he could envision a scenario in which the special counsel’s activities could be ground to a halt by reining in his budget. (I can still hear the Democrats’ screaming echoing in my ears about this one.) But I'd like to point out that Whitaker WASN’T SAYING HE WOULD DO THAT. He was only thinking out loud and saying he could imagine such a scenario. As numerous legal experts have said, there is absolutely nothing about what he said that would preclude his taking this job.
Democrats also contend that Whitaker has come out forcefully and absolutely against the special counsel examining the President’s finances. (That’s the argument they use for saying Trump’s appointment of him amounts to obstruction.) But that’s wasn't exactly Whitaker’s position, according to McCarthy. Whitaker simply offered the opinion that in order to review Trump’s finances, Mueller would “have to return to Rod Rosenstein for additional authority.” How radical! Actually, that would be the proper procedure for Mueller to follow.
Incidentally, McCarthy thinks that Sessions got a raw deal and that he performed admirably in his job. Perhaps he did, to the extent that he could perform it, but I would say that if he anticipated that he'd have to recuse himself from such an important part of it, he shouldn’t have taken the job in the first place, or else he should have left early on. McCarthy also notes that it was Rosenstein who appointed the special counsel, no Sessions.
Some critics are saying that because Whitaker was in a job (chief of staff) that didn’t require Senate confirmation, he could not become the “acting officer” for a job (attorney general) that did require it. They are wrong; this is not accurate. As McCarthy points out, under the relevant legislation, the Vacancies Reform Act of 1998, the President may name an acting officer who may serve for up to 210 days as long as this person has been working at the agency or department in a fairly high-ranking position for at least 90 days. Since Whitaker became Sessions’ chief of staff in October of 2017, he easily qualifies. He also has excellent credentials and influential references, which McCarthy details.
McCarthy also reviews the extensive conflicts Rosenstein has with overseeing the Mueller investigation. (We've covered them for many months and know them well.) Given the magnitude of those, and the media’s indifference to them, McCarthy is “amused” by the media’s “pearl-clutching” over the prospect of Whitaker’s supervision of Mueller’s investigation.
Critics cite the opinion essay that Whitaker wrote for CNN a couple of months before he joined the Trump administration that defended a statement made by Trump that looking into his personal finances would, Trump thought, be a violation, because “this is about Russia.” But Whitaker did not say that Trump’s finances were off-limits no matter what. He simply agreed with Trump that any look into his finances would have to be connected to Russia, or else the investigation would look like a witch hunt. Again, radical!
Whitaker's op-ed seems perfectly reasonable to me. In fact, it’s excellent. I’ve included a link to it so you can see for yourself.
Anyway, with all the hysteria from the anti-Trump wing, Matt Whitaker seems to be a good choice to take Sessions’ job, at least for now. Keep in mind that Democrats are going to scream at anything Trump does and anyone he appoints. There is nothing he can do that will be met with anything but resistance in return. It gets to the point where one just has to tune them out. And one thing I like about Trump is his ability to do that.