A trio of Democratic U.S. senators have filed suit to block President Trump’s choice to serve as acting attorney general.
The three Democrats, Connecticut’s Richard Blumenthal, Hawaii’s Mazie Hirono and Rhode Island’s Sheldon Whitehouse, lent their name to litigation asserting Mr. Trump’s appointment of Matt Whitaker is unconstitutional, violating the Appointments Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
“The stakes are too high to allow the president to install an unconfirmed lackey to lead the Department of Justice — a lackey whose stated purpose, apparently, is undermining a major investigation into the president,” Sen. Whitehouse said in a statement.
In a 17-page brief filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the basis for the suit is Mr. Whitaker had not secured Senate confirmation in his prior role at DOJ.
“Because the Senate has not consented to Mr. Whitaker serving as an Officer of the United States, his designation by the President to perform the functions and duties of the Attorney General violates the Appointments Clause. . . . Indeed, if allowed to stand, Mr. Whitaker’s appointment would create a road map for the evasion of the constitutionally prescribed Senate advice-and-consent role,” read a passage from the lawsuit.
The suit also contains language critical of Whitaker over previous comments the acting attorney general has made in connection with the special counsel investigating alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
In a 2017 op-ed appearing in The Hill, Whitaker argued in favor of Mr. Trump’s decision to dismiss former FBI director, James Comey.
In separate media appearances, Whitaker speculated over defunding Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, and once cast doubt over whether any collusion between the Trump presidential campaign and Russia occurred.
Although Trump invoked the Federal Vacancies Reform Act to appoint Whitaker, Democrats claim Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein should have assumed the top position at DOJ, as per succession rules.
Whitaker, 49, once served as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Iowa, and sought the U.S. Senate seat from Iowa, losing to eventually winner, Jodi Ernst, in the GOP primary.
In September 2017, Whitaker was named Chief of Staff to now-former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Despite the outcry over his naming as acting attorney general, fears over Whitaker’s ability to manage Special Counsel Mueller’s probe were addressed by the special counsel himself in a Monday legal filing.
In a D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals motion, Mueller asserted despite the personnel shuffle at DOJ, he maintains “full power” under U.S. law to continue with his probe.
[Washington Examiner] [Democracy Now!] [AlterNet] [Photo courtesy Getty Images via Esquire]