John Colson: Matthew Whitaker should not be our national top cop
Hit & Run
And so it begins, again.
Our president, confident as he is that the world revolves around him and no one else, has concluded that his side of the ongoing U.S. political divide really won the 2018 electoral battle, despite the fact that the Democrats will take control of the House of Representatives in January, and there are still senatorial races that have not been decided that could result either in virtually no change in the political ratio of power, or a less dramatic change than Donald Trump envisions.
Time will tell on that point.
Either way, however, Trump, after firing former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has appointed an acting attorney general (apparently in violation of federal law), a man whose only qualifications for the job are unqualified obedience and slavish devotion to whatever Trump wants in the latest shakeup of his administration.
Among other things, Matthew Whitaker was appointed to his former job as assistant AG without any vetting by Congress, which some experts have said means his elevation to the AG position is illegal and must be done formally through the traditional vetting process.
Whitaker undoubtedly has enjoyed it when right-wing supporters of his cause cite his performance as a football player in college as a primary point of eligibility to be the top law enforcement officer of the land.
In any event, Whitaker is now the one supervising special counsel Robert Mueller’s wide-ranging probes into Russian election-meddling as well as into other aspects of Trump’s dealings as a candidate and as president.
It is pertinent that Whitaker has pointedly criticized Mueller in print and in interviews. Whitaker maintained in an op-ed in August 2017 that Mueller had gone “too far” in his work and that the Mueller probe’s scope should be “contained,” though that contradicted his own statement in June 2017, when he said in a television interview that the president should not fire Mueller.
Does that mean that Whitaker is capable of seeing his way through to firing Mueller on his own, thereby sparing Trump the trouble?
Not sure about that one yet.
What is known for certain is that many legal scholars and government experts have characterized the elevation of Whitaker to his new job as an act that is in violation of the U.S. Constitution and federal statutes, and have called on him to recuse himself from oversight of the Mueller investigations.
Of course, Trump has been utterly dismissive of such experts and scholars on many occasions, and clearly believes that the laws of the land do not apply to him. So, the Whitaker move really is not surprising in any way other than its audacity, since it happened immediately after the recent election and he has doubled down on his insistence that he, as president, makes the rules, and that he does not have to obey them whether they were in force before he came to office or afterward.
Another area where Whitaker’s statements seem at odds with the idea that he should be the man in charge of the Mueller probe was his defense last year of the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump, Jr., over a 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in New York with a Kremlin-linked lawyer promising to provide political dirt about Trump’s opponent in that year’s election, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Whitaker said on CNN last year that such a meeting was nothing unusual, and that politicians are always looking for dirt on their opponents.
The fact that it was a Russian lawyer with close ties to the Kremlin and Russian President Vladimir Putin seems not to give Whitaker pause. I guess the idea that the Russians should be able to influence U.S. voters’ choice for president is somehow not a distasteful one, at least not to Whitaker and Trump.
But it is distasteful to me, and to many others, and Mueller is believed to be scrutinizing the circumstances of that 2016 Trump Tower meeting.
One must always remember that a dozen or so Russian hackers have been indicted by Mueller and his team for their roles in interfering with the election, and that it is widely believed that the Russians were back at it again this year, hacking their way into the electronic milieu underlying the 2018 election.
It would seem that Whitaker, like his boss, is on the “we must do anything, everything to win” team, including letting foreign powers take a hand in deciding who will sit in the White House.
The above remarks do not even take into account Whitaker’s former job as director of a secretive, wildly misnamed outfit called the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, which has gotten the lion’s share of its funding from so-called “dark money” sources and which was deeply involved in the fervid effort to paint Clinton as a criminal for her use of private email servers.
Never mind that this practice was something that former Secretary of State Colin Powell once admitted to doing when he had that job, and which he said was a common practice among secretaries before him because of the unreliability of the federal government’s email services.
More will come to light about Whitaker’s lack of qualifications and ineligibility for this job, I am sure.
What will come after that is anybody’s guess.
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