After accepting the resignation of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions on the day after election day and naming Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general, President Trump is in no hurry to name a permanent replacement, despite pressure from other elected officials. That's according to a Bloomberg News report published Wednesday morning.
According to the piece by reporters Shannon Pettypiece and Jennifer Jacobs, Trump is facing pressure to name a new attorney general from both the current chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and the presumed incoming chairman of that committee Sen. Lindsey Graham (R- South Carolina). Grassley recently said that the president "would be wise to get somebody appointed like yesterday."
The Bloomberg piece reported that possible future contenders to serve as attorney general include Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas), former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and current Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.
Whitaker, who has not been confirmed by the Senate, is allowed to serve as acting attorney general for up to 210 days, although if the confirmation process is already in progress at that point, he may stay longer.
The appointment of Whitaker gives him oversight of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into the 2016 Russia collusion matter, from which Jeff Sessions had recused himself in 2017. This has led to worries that Whitaker would fire Mueller or otherwise interfere with the special counsel's probe.There are other reasons for the delay, Bloomberg reported. There is not yet a White House counsel in place following the departure of Don McGahn, as the White House counsel is important to the confirmation of an attorney general. And Congress is about to leave for its winter recess, with the December lame-duck session unlikely to allow enough time for a full confirmation hearing. Any hearing would have to wait for the new Congress, which may actually help the chances of a presidential appointment, with the GOP's Senate majority having grown by two seats in this month's election.
Following Whitaker's appointment, a New York Times op-ed argued that Whitaker's appointment was actually illegal, and therefore "anything Mr. Whitaker does, or tries to do, in that position is invalid." That op-ed was authored by conservative lawyers Neal K. Katyal and George T. Conway III; Conway is married to White House adviser Kellyanne Conway. More than a dozen state attorneys general have since filed suit, also arguing that the appointment of Whitaker was not legal.