Philippine Daily Inquirer - - WORLD - —REUTERS

WASH­ING­TON— US Se­nate Democrats ques­tioned the le­gal­ity of Pres­i­dent Donald Trump’s ap­point­ment of Matthew Whi­taker to re­place for­mer At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions.

Se­nate Demo­cratic leader Chuck Schumer chal­lenged the le­gal­ity of Trump’s ap­point­ment while other Democrats threat­ened to sue the party.

“You ignored the statu­tory line of suc­ces­sion,” Schumer said in a Nov. 9 let­ter to Trump.

“The ap­point­ment of Mr. Whi­taker is fur­ther clouded by un­re­solved con­sti­tu­tional ques­tions about the le­gal­ity of such an ac­tion,” Schumer added.

Line of suc­ces­sion

He said that Deputy At­tor­ney Gen­eral Rod Rosen­stein, a ca­reer jus­tice depart­ment official al­ready con­firmed by the Se­nate, should have been named top of the post af­ter Ses­sions was re­moved.

John Yoo, a for­mer jus­tice depart­ment lawyer in the Ge­orge W. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion, ex­plained that prin­ci­pal of­fi­cers of the jus­tice depart­ment must be con­firmed.

“There­fore, Whi­taker can­not serve as act­ing At­tor­ney Gen­eral,” Yoo said, adding that the Supreme Court made clear that the At­tor­ney Gen­eral is a prin­ci­pal of­fi­cer in a 1998 case.

“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,” Yoo said.

Whi­taker’s ap­point­ment makes him su­per­vi­sor of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, which has hung over Trump’s pres­i­dency.

At the same time, Whi­taker has also been crit­i­cal of the probe and had re­peat­edly said it was too wide-rang­ing, a view that raised con­cerns among Democrats that Ses­sions’ ouster and Whi­taker’s ap­point­ment might be a pre­cur­sor to Trump mov­ing to end it.

Le­gal ac­tion

Demo­cratic Se­na­tor Richard Blu­men­thal said his par­ty­mates are con­sid­er­ing le­gal ac­tion over Whi­taker’s ap­point­ment.

But Democrats, as the mi­nor­ity party in the Se­nate, 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.

Mueller probe

Se­na­tor Lind­sey Gra­ham said no threat to the Rus­sia probe be­ing led by Spe­cial Coun­sel Robert Mueller is posed by Whi­taker.

“Mueller will be al­lowed to do his job,” said Gra­ham, who ear­lier this year in­tro­duced leg­is­la­tion to pro­tect Mueller, in a Fri­day in­ter­view on Fox News Ra­dio.

Repub­li­can Se­na­tor Su­san Collins said on Fri­day that Mueller must be al­lowed to com­plete his in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

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

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


Matthew Whi­taker

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