Donald Trump said on Friday that he “doesn’t know” the acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker — even though reports say Whitaker has made several Oval Office visits to meet with Trump and Trump himself last month said, “I know Matt Whitaker.”
After Trump demanded the resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions this week, the interim replacement has come under fire for his past criticism of the Russia probe and suggestions of how to starve Robert Mueller’s investigation of money. Now, Trump has declared that he “doesn’t know” Whitaker, a man he has reportedly met dozens of times in the Oval Office and had openly praised just a few weeks ago.
As NY Magazine reported, Trump claimed that Whitaker “has a great reputation” but that he did not know Whitaker personally. The report claimed that “none of these things are true,” noting that Whitaker spent years working for a patent company that was shut down as a fraud.
Trump was also untruthful when he claimed not to know Whitaker, another report noted.
“As Sessions’s chief of staff, Whitaker met with the president in the Oval Office more than a dozen times, normally accompanying the attorney general, according to a senior administration official,” the Washington Post reported yesterday. “When Trump complained about the Mueller investigation, Whitaker often smiled knowingly and nodded in assent, the official said.”
Donald Trump has even contradicted himself on the matter, telling Fox News in an interview last month, “I know Matt Whitaker.”
Trump today: "I don't know Whitaker."— Rebecca Ballhaus (@rebeccaballhaus) November 9, 2018
Trump, in an Oct. 11 interview with Fox News: “I can tell you Matt Whitaker’s a great guy. I mean, I know Matt Whitaker.” https://t.co/pcffPH5YgU w/@sgurman @aviswanatha
Donald Trump forcing out Jeff Sessions has created waves politically, prompting both Democrats and Republicans to call on Congress to take action that would prevent Trump from firing Robert Mueller or otherwise ending the Russia probe. Sessions had recused himself from matters on Russia, a point that reportedly infuriated Trump, but his replacement would now have the power to end the probe or fire Mueller.
But on Friday, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would not move the legislation forward as he believed it was not necessary.
“It’s not necessary. The Mueller investigation is not under threat. The president said repeatedly that he’s not going to dismiss the Mueller investigation. He’s said repeatedly it’s going to be allowed to finish. That also happens to be my view,” McConnell told reporters (via the Hill).
Regardless, Republican Senator Jeff Flake still plans to raise the issue on the floor of the Senate, the report noted, though McConnell is expected to block the move. For his part, neither Donald Trump nor Matthew Whitaker has expressed any plans to fire Robert Mueller.