DEMOCRATS QUESTION LEGALITY OF WHITAKER APPOINTMENT
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.
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.
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.