Act­ing AG may be ‘very in­terim’

Trump says he doesn’t know him, af­ter telling Fox News that he did

The Dallas Morning News - - Front Page -

A per­ma­nent re­place­ment could be named soon for Matthew Whi­taker, the man Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump named act­ing at­tor­ney gen­eral and on Fri­day de­nied know­ing.

WASH­ING­TON — Matthew Whi­taker’s fu­ture at the helm of the Jus­tice Depart­ment ap­peared un­cer­tain at best Fri­day as Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump de­nied even know­ing the man he had named act­ing at­tor­ney gen­eral just two days ear­lier. The Se­nate’s top Repub­li­can pre­dicted a per­ma­nent re­place­ment could be named soon for Whi­taker, who is now over­see­ing the Trump­rus­sia probe.

The com­ments from Trump and Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch Mccon­nell came as Whi­taker’s past busi­ness ties and re­marks about spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion and other top­ics were draw­ing scru­tiny from Democrats and ethics groups.

Speak­ing to re­porters Fri­day, Trump said, “I don’t know Matt Whi­taker.” That con­tra­dicted Trump’s re­marks on Fox News last month, when he called Whi­taker “a great guy” and said, “I mean, I know Matt Whi­taker.”

Mccon­nell, mean­while, said, “I think this will be a very in­terim AG.” Sen. Su­san Collins, R­maine, said she was con­cerned by some of Whi­taker’s past com­ments and called for leg­is­la­tion that would place lim­its on his abil­ity to fire spe­cial coun­sel Mueller. That would in­clude spec­i­fy­ing that only a Se­nate­con­firmed Jus­tice Depart­ment of­fi­cial — which Whi­taker is not — could dis­miss Mueller.

Whi­taker, a Repub­li­can Party loy­al­ist and chief of staff to just­ousted At­tor­ney Gen­ eral Jeff Ses­sions, was el­e­vated Wed­nes­day af­ter his boss was forced from his job by Trump. The new po­si­tion handed him over­sight of Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into pos­si­ble ties be­tween Rus­sia and Trump’s 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

Since Wed­nes­day, Whi­taker has faced pres­sure from Democrats to re­cuse him­self from over­see­ing Mueller based on crit­i­cal com­ments he made about the in­ves­ti­ga­tion be­fore join­ing the Jus­tice Depart­ment last year.

There have also been re­ports about Whi­taker’s past com­ments ques­tion­ing the power and reach of the fed­eral ju­di­ciary, and about his ties to an in­ven­tion­pro­mo­tion firm ac­cused of mis­lead­ing in­vestors.

The Wall Street Jour­nal on Fri­day pub­lished an email re­veal­ing an FBI in­quiry into the firm, World Patent Mar­ket­ing Inc. The July 10, 2017, email was from an FBI vic­tims’ spe­cial­ist to some­one who the news­pa­per said was an al­leged vic­tim of the com­pany. A Jus­tice Depart­ment spokes­woman told the Jour­nal that Whi­taker was “not aware of any fraud­u­lent ac­tiv­ity.”

De­spite Trump’s cur­rent dis­tanc­ing of him­self from Whi­taker, two Repub­li­cans close to the pres­i­dent said that he had en­joyed Whi­taker’s TV ap­pear­ances and that the two had a bond. The ap­pear­ances in­cluded one on CNN in which Whi­taker sug­gested that the Mueller probe could be starved of re­sources.

On Fri­day, Trump said he had not spo­ken with Whi­taker about Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion, which un­til now has been over­seen by Deputy At­tor­ney Gen­eral Rod Rosen­stein.

Of the scru­tiny Whi­taker is fac­ing, Trump said, “It’s a shame that no mat­ter who I put in they go af­ter.”

Whi­taker him­self stayed out of the pub­lic de­bate Fri­day.

Trump hasn’t said whom he will nom­i­nate to per­ma­nently re­place Ses­sions. For­mer New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is said to be a can­di­date, along with La­bor Sec­re­tary Alex Acosta and Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Sec­re­tary Alex Azar.

Trump told re­porters he had not dis­cussed the post with Christie.

MATTHEW WHI­TAKER

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