Last weekend, the White House believed that Rod Rosenstein’s time at the Justice Department was up. Following reports that the deputy attorney general had once discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Donald Trump from office — and (jokingly?) suggested that he could prove the president was mentally unsound by wearing a wire to his next meeting with the commander-in-chief — Rosenstein reportedly told Chief of Staff John Kelly that he intended to resign.
The administration wasted little time in preparing a replacement. On Saturday morning, Kelly called Jeff Sessions’s top aide, Matthew G. Whitaker, and informed him that he would soon be deputy attorney general, according to the New York Times.
But Rosenstein changed his mind. Or at least, he decided that he did not wish to resign “without assurances he was doing so on amicable terms with the president.” And while Trump has signaled his strong desire to replace the man who launched the Mueller investigation with someone more willing to degrade Justice (both the department and concept) on his behalf, he’s also suggested that he would rather clean house after the midterms (best not to make a naked grab for unchecked power while Democrats are still campaigning as a check on your naked power grabs).
So, for the moment, Matthew Whitaker is still, merely, Jeff Sessions’s chief of staff. But by the Times account, it is quite likely only a matter of time before Whitaker ascends to the second-most powerful post in the Justice Department — one that will empower him to “oversee the nation’s federal prosecutors, including the investigations of Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, the Trump Organization and the business run by the father of Mr. Kushner.” And while direct supervision of the Mueller investigation would fall to Solicitor General Noel Francisco, as deputy AG Whitaker “could take steps to protect the president from investigation, to seal records, withhold funding from Mueller, and otherwise slow the work of the special counsel to a crawl,” according to CNBC.
Whitaker is a former U.S. Attorney and 2014 Senate candidate in Iowa, who. joined the Justice Department last fall. Here are a few things that he has publicly claimed to believe:
• Robert Mueller has no legitimate authority to investigate the Trump Organization’s finances, and if he does (which, he has), “then this would raise serious concerns that the special counsel’s investigation was a mere witch hunt.”
• Donald Trump was right to fire James Comey — because James Comey should have prosecuted Hillary Clinton:
Comey’s announcement last July that he would not recommend prosecution of Hillary Clinton for violations of the Espionage Act were a shock to many in law enforcement both inside the FBI and out…[H]is pronouncement that “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring such a case was just wrong, and I said so publicly at the time. I was a federal prosecutor for five years and was proud to serve in the Department of Justice, and I would’ve brought that case.
Clinton set up an entire secret, unsecured communications structure outside of the government she was charged with serving at the highest level; she was the Secretary of State. Classified information that, in the wrong hands, could potentially bring harm to our country – and many in service to our country — was available to be appropriated.
(Whitaker has never called for any investigations into — let alone, prosecutions of — the Trump administration’s many, many, many violations of information security protocol.)
• All federal judges should be “people of faith” who take “a biblical view of justice.”
• The Supreme Court is “supposed to be the inferior branch of our three branches of government,” and has claimed far too much power for itself. Specifically, Whittaker says that Marbury v. Madison — the case that gave the court the power to strike down duly enacted laws — was wrongly decided, as the Supreme Court should not be “ final arbiter of constitutional issues.”
But if there’s one thing Whitaker hates more than the Supreme Court striking down laws it regards as unconstitutional, it’s when “unelected judges” refuse to strike down laws that conservatives don’t like:
Unelected judges are deciding many of the issues of the day. There are so many (bad rulings). I would start with the idea of Marbury v. Madison. That’s probably a good place to start and the way it’s looked at the Supreme Court as the final arbiter of constitutional issues. We’ll move forward from there. All New Deal cases that were expansive of the federal government. Those would be bad. Then all the way up to the Affordable Care Act and the individual mandate.
• There shouldn’t have been an independent counsel’s investigation into Russian interference because there wasn’t such an investigation into the Obama administration’s many scandals:
Calls for an independent counsel or commission to investigate allegations that Russia tried to interfere with our elections ring hollow when similar calls for special counsels during the scandals of the Obama administration were dismissed out of hand by the same people making these demands now.
So, clearly, Matthew Whitaker would make a sober, fair-minded, and trustworthy overseer of the Justice Department’s transformation into Donald J. Trump’s private detective agency.