Before being elevated to the position of Acting US Attorney General, Matthew G. Whitaker had already left a tell-tale trail of thoughts on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
Whitaker served as Chief of Staff to now former Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the Department of Justice until Wednesday when it was announced that Sessions was asked to resign.
President Donald Trump announced the changes in tweets on Wednesday.
We are pleased to announce that Matthew G. Whitaker, Chief of Staff to Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the Department of Justice, will become our new Acting Attorney General of the United States. He will serve our Country well….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 7, 2018
….We thank Attorney General Jeff Sessions for his service, and wish him well! A permanent replacement will be nominated at a later date.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 7, 2018
Mueller’s investigation now falls under Whitaker’s oversight as he takes over at the Justice Department, according to DOJ spokeswoman Sarah Flores.
Asked who would oversee Mueller probe now, @SarahFloresDOJ responds: “The Acting Attorney General is in charge of all matters under the purview of the Department of Justice.”
— Mike Warren (@MichaelRWarren) November 7, 2018
Whitaker had often spoken about the Mueller probe and indicated where he stood on the ongoing investigation which he will now oversee. Speaking to CNN in 2017, he had even speculated about a time that Sessions might be fired, and that a new “attorney general doesn’t fire Bob Mueller, but he just reduces his budget to so low that his investigation grinds to almost a halt.”
“I think what ultimately the president is going to start doing is putting pressure on Rod J. Rosenstein, who is in charge of this investigation, is acting attorney general, and really try to get Rod to maybe even cut the budget of Bob Mueller and do something a little more stage crafty than the blunt instrument of firing the attorney general and trying to replace him,” Whitaker said.
A former US attorney from the Southern District of Iowa, Whitaker did not think too highly of the special counsel’s investigation and tweeted about the latest in August 2017.
2. Whitaker’s tweets about Mueller pic.twitter.com/rGjZxsBE6q
— Yashar Ali ? (@yashar) November 7, 2018
A closer look at the tweet can seen below:
An August 2017 op-ed by Whitaker titled, “Mueller’s investigation of Trump is going too far,” suggested that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein should “limit” the investigation.
“It is time for Rosenstein, who is the acting attorney general for the purposes of this investigation, to order Mueller to limit the scope of his investigation to the four corners of the order appointing him special counsel,” he wrote just before being hired to be Sessions’ chief of staff in September 2017.
He also agreed with Trump’s comments against Mueller investigating his finances.
“The President is absolutely correct,” Whitaker wrote. “Mueller has come up to a red line in the Russia 2016 election-meddling investigation that he is dangerously close to crossing.”
The 49-year-old once ran for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in 2014, but lost to Joni Ernst and back in his University of Iowa college days, Whitaker was a member of the Hawkeyes football team, playing in the 1991 Rose Bowl.
Before joining the Justice Department, Whitaker had argued that Hillary Clinton should be indicted.
“A reasonable prosecutor may ask, if on numerous occasions, an unknown State Department employee had taken top secret information from a secured system, emailed that information on a Gmail account, and stored the information on a personal server for years, would that individual be prosecuted? I believe they would,” he wrote an op-ed for USA Today in July 2016.
Whitaker’s past views and public comments may not indicate how he will act in his new position but could prove to be a point of contention for Trump’s critics.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has already called for Whitaker to recuse himself from the Russia investigation due to his previous commentary.
Given his previous comments advocating defunding and imposing limitations on the Mueller investigation, Mr. Whitaker should recuse himself from its oversight for the duration of his time as acting attorney general.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) November 7, 2018
When asked last month about the possibility of Whitaker replacing Sessions, Trump had replied in an interview with “Fox and Friends.”
“Well, I’d never talk about that, but I can tell you Matt Whitaker is a great guy,” Trump said.
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