Se­nate Democrats weigh law­suit over Trump Jus­tice Dept ap­point­ment

Stabroek News - - WORLD NEWS -

WASH­ING­TON, (Reuters) - U.S. Se­nate Democrats are con­sid­er­ing le­gal ac­tion over Pres­i­dent Donald Trump’s ap­point­ment of a new act­ing at­tor­ney gen­eral, con­gres­sional sources said yes­ter­day, as some out­side ex­perts called the move un­con­sti­tu­tional.

Trump on Wed­nes­day named Matthew Whi­taker to re­place for­mer At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions, who was forced out af­ter months of at­tacks by Trump for re­cus­ing him­self from an on­go­ing probe into Rus­sian med­dling in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

The move made Whi­taker su­per­vi­sor of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, which has hung over Trump’s pres­i­dency. Whi­taker has crit­i­cized the probe in the past as too widerang­ing, which has raised con­cerns among Democrats that Ses­sions’ ouster and Whi­taker’s ap­point­ment might be pre­cur­sors to Trump mov­ing to end it.

Se­nate Democrats were con­sid­er­ing su­ing Trump, the sources said, on the grounds that, in nam­ing Whi­taker, the pres­i­dent ignored a statu­tory line of suc­ces­sion at the Jus­tice Depart­ment and de­prived sen­a­tors of their con­sti­tu­tional “ad­vice and con­sent” role on some pres­i­den­tial ap­point­ments.

“The only two paths to that of­fice are reg­u­lar suc­ces­sion, and ad­vice (and) con­sent,” said a source close to the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee.

Demo­cratic Se­na­tor Richard Blu­men­thal told Reuters late on Fri­day he was “con­sid­er­ing ac­tion that might be brought against an in­terim ap­point­ment that vi­o­lates the nor­mal statu­tory line of suc­ces­sion and raises very se­ri­ous con­sti­tu­tional ques­tions.”

He said he was speak­ing only for him­self and he hoped Repub­li­cans might join as plain­tiffs if a law­suit goes for­ward.

The Ap­point­ments Clause of the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion states that some se­nior govern­ment of­fi­cials, known as “prin­ci­pal of­fi­cers,” must be con­firmed by the Se­nate.

A spokesman for Se­nate Ju­di­ciary chair­man Chuck Grass­ley said Trump had the author­ity to ap­point Whi­taker as act­ing at­tor­ney gen­eral tem­po­rar­ily, even though he had not been con­firmed by the Se­nate.

Such ap­point­ments can be done for se­nior of­fi­cials who have worked in the depart­ment for at least 90 days and can last for up to 210 days, spokesman Ge­orge Hart­mann said.

As the mi­nor­ity party in the Se­nate, Democrats might need some Repub­li­can sup­port to have le­gal stand­ing to sue Trump un­der the Ap­point­ments Clause, said Andrew Wright, who was a White House lawyer un­der for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama.

The source close to the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee said Democrats were un­sure whether they would reach out to Repub­li­cans to join the law­suit, but added it was “not likely.”

Repub­li­can Se­na­tor Lind­sey Gra­ham, who ear­lier this year in­tro­duced leg­is­la­tion to pro­tect Spe­cial Coun­sel Robert Mueller, who is con­duct­ing the probe, said Whi­taker did not pose a threat to his work.

“Mueller will be al­lowed to do his job,” Gra­ham said in a Fri­day in­ter­view on Fox News Ra­dio.

John Yoo, a for­mer Jus­tice Depart­ment lawyer in the Ge­orge W. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion, said “the Supreme Court made clear that the At­tor­ney Gen­eral is a prin­ci­pal of­fi­cer,” in a 1998 case.

“There­fore, Whi­taker can­not serve as act­ing At­tor­ney Gen­eral ... Any other of­fi­cer in the Jus­tice Depart­ment who was ap­pointed through ad­vice and con­sent can serve, in­clud­ing the Deputy AG, the so­lic­i­tor gen­eral, and the as­sis­tant AGs,” said Yoo, now a law pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley.

Se­nate Demo­cratic leader Chuck

Schumer said Deputy At­tor­ney Gen­eral Rod Rosen­stein, a ca­reer Jus­tice Depart­ment official al­ready con­firmed by the Se­nate, should have been named the new at­tor­ney gen­eral.

U.S. in­tel­li­gence agen­cies have said Rus­sia in­ter­fered in the 2016 elec­tion in an at­tempt to tip it to­wards Trump and away from his Demo­cratic op­po­nent, for­mer Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton.

Repub­li­can Se­na­tor Su­san Collins said Mueller must be al­lowed to com­plete his in­ves­ti­ga­tion into whether Trump’s cam­paign col­luded with Moscow.

Trump has re­peat­edly said there was no col­lu­sion, and has slammed the probe as a “witch hunt.” Rus­sia has de­nied in­ter­fer­ing.

“I am con­cerned about com­ments that Act­ing At­tor­ney Gen­eral Matthew Whi­taker has made re­gard­ing the Spe­cial Coun­sel and the pa­ram­e­ters of his in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” Collins said in a state­ment.

“We should bring to the Se­nate floor leg­is­la­tion that would put re­stric­tions on the abil­ity of Pres­i­dent Donald Trump to fire the Spe­cial Coun­sel.”

Matthew Whi­taker

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