Appearing on Sunday morning news programs, Democrats voiced their concerns about the reasons President Trump appointed Matthew Whitaker as acting Attorney General. They also made clear how closely they will be watching any decisions he makes about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump 2016 presidential campaign. Politico reports that Democratic Representative Jerry Nadler of New York, incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, appeared on CNN’s State of the Union Sunday morning and stated his opposition to Whitaker’s appointment.
“He’s totally unqualified… And his only qualification seems to be that he wants to be — that the president wants him to be the hatchet man to destroy the Mueller investigation.”
Matthew Whitaker’s prior public attacks on the Mueller investigation have Democrats concerned about his role as acting Attorney General which puts him in charge of the investigation that he obviously and vocally opposes. President Trump publicly bashed former Attorney General Jeff Sessions for months about his decision to recuse himself from oversight of Mueller’s investigation.
Democratic Representative Adam Schiff of California will chair the House Intelligence Committee. He told Meet the Press host Chuck Todd Sunday that the committee will be watching Whitaker closely when it comes to the Russia investigation.
“If he has any involvement whatsoever in this Russia probe, we are going to find out whether he made commitments to the president about the probe, whether he is serving as a back channel to the president or his lawyers about the probe, whether he’s doing anything to interfere with the probe.”
Democrats have a stern message for Matthew Whitaker: Recuse yourself from the Russia probe, or expect to be center stage at a congressional hearing in January https://t.co/u75fILkg78
— POLITICO (@politico) November 11, 2018
Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec defended the president’s choice of Whitaker, calling him “well-qualified” and saying that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had called him a “superb choice.”
Nadler said Sunday morning that Whitaker would be the first witness called by the House Judiciary Committee. He indicated that he would be forced to testify and that a subpoena would be issued if necessary. Jeff Sessions was put in a similar situation during his tenure. It was a situation that got him into hot water for some of his comments and ultimately led to his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. President Trump never forgave him for that decision.
Matthew Whitaker’s comments about the Mueller investigation were made before he joined the Justice Department. He expressed doubt that there was sufficient evidence to even conduct an investigation, insisted that there was no collusion, and suggested cutting Mueller’s budget in order to bring the investigation to a speedy end. Kellyanne Conway suggested on Fox News Sunday that his comments should be dismissed because he made them as a “private citizen.”
“If you’re talking about Matt Whitaker’s statements as a private citizen a year and a half ago when the Mueller investigation first started, what he has said on cable TV, I don’t think that disqualifies somebody from being the chief law enforcement officer at the Department of Justice, which is an executive function.”