Trump’s Pick For Acting AG Riles Up Members Of His Own Republican Party

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker.
Steve Pope / Getty Images

An ad put out by a group of conservatives takes aim at President Donald Trump’s recent appointment of Matthew Whitaker to serve as the temporary head of the Department of Justice.

Whitaker’s ascension to become the acting Attorney General “cannot be trusted” to oversee an important investigation involving Russia’s meddling in our elections, the group Republicans for the Rule of Law said in a statement, per reporting from HuffPost.

“Having publicly and repeatedly prejudged [special counsel] Robert Mueller’s investigation, Whitaker has given us…every reason to believe he will be guided by President Trump’s interests rather than the country’s,” the group added.

The group released an ad last week demonstrating that Whitaker’s comments on Mueller have implied he’s ready to terminate the special counsel, possibly at Trump’s behest. The ad demands that Whitaker recuse himself from overseeing the investigation due to his conflicts of interest based on past statements lambasting Mueller. If he doesn’t, the ad encourages people to call their senators to demand they do something to protect the investigation.

The ad is aimed to a broad audience, but has targeted conservatives especially, having been aired on Fox News program “Fox and Friends,” a favorite show that Trump himself has been known to watch.

Whitaker took over a supervisory role of Mueller’s investigation after the ouster of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions following the midterm elections. While Sessions was in his position, he had also recused himself from overseeing Mueller’s work, due to his discussions with Russian actors during the Trump presidential campaign in 2016. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein took over the supervisory role instead.

With the installation of a new AG (even a temporary one), the responsibility of overseeing special counsel investigations shifts to that individual.

Some lawmakers in Congress have demanded legislation be passed to ensure Mueller’s work cannot be wrongly halted, possibly allowing a panel of judges to make a final determination if anyone in the executive branch attempts to fire the special counsel. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), however, has thwarted all attempts in the Senate to pass such a bill.

“It’s not necessary. The Mueller investigation is not under threat,” McConnell said earlier this month, according to reporting from Business Insider.

The president has frequently touted his disdain for the Mueller-led investigation. In one tweet, Trump called Mueller’s work an “illegal witch hunt.”

A ruling from a Trump-appointed judge earlier this year found that Mueller’s appointment as special counsel was within the bounds of constitutionality, per reporting from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.