Cre­at­ing dis­tance

Trump on new act­ing AG: ‘I don’t know Matt Whi­taker’

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - WORLD -

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump dis­tanced him­self Fri­day from his new act­ing at­tor­ney gen­eral, Matthew Whi­taker, whose past busi­ness ties and com­ments on the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion and other top­ics have drawn scru­tiny.

Speak­ing to re­porters Fri­day, Trump said: “I don’t know Matt Whi­taker. Matt Whi­taker worked for Jeff Ses­sions, and he was al­ways ex­tremely highly thought of, and he still is. But I didn’t know Matt Whi­taker. He worked for At­tor­ney Gen­eral (Jeff) Ses­sions.”

That con­tra­dicted re­marks Trump made on Fox News last month, when he called Whi­taker “a great guy” and said “I mean, I know Matt Whi­taker.

Trump el­e­vated Whi­taker to the post on Wed­nes­day af­ter forc­ing out Ses­sions, in­stalling a Repub­li­can Party loy­al­ist to over­see the spe­cial coun­sel in­ves­ti­ga­tion into pos­si­ble ties be­tween Rus­sia and the pres­i­dent’s 2016 cam­paign.

Since then, Whi­taker, who had been Ses­sions’ chief of staff, has faced pres­sure from Democrats to re­cuse him­self from over­see­ing spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller, based on crit­i­cal com­ments he made about the in­ves­ti­ga­tion be­fore join­ing the Jus­tice Depart­ment last year.

Those in­clude an op-ed in which he said Mueller would be stray­ing out­side his man­date if he in­ves­ti­gated Trump fam­ily fi­nances and a talk ra­dio in­ter­view in which he main­tained that there was no ev­i­dence of col­lu­sion be­tween the Krem­lin and the Trump cam­paign. There have also been re­ports about past com­ments ques­tion­ing the power and reach of the fed­eral ju­di­ciary, and about his ties to an in­ven­tion-pro­mo­tion com­pany that was ac­cused of mis­lead­ing in­vestors.

Le­gal schol­ars, mean­while, have de­bated the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of Whi­taker’s ap­point­ment, with some lawyers say­ing it is il­le­gal be­cause Whi­taker has not been con­firmed by the Se­nate.

AP PHOTO

In this April 24, 2014, photo, then-Iowa Repub­li­can sen­a­to­rial can­di­date and for­mer U.S. At­tor­ney Matt Whi­taker watches be­fore a live tele­vised de­bate in John­ston, Iowa.

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