Short-lived reign for acting AG?
President says he doesn’t know his recent appointee
WASHINGTON — Matthew Whitaker’s future at the helm of the Justice Department appeared uncertain Friday as President Donald Trump denied 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 Trump-russia probe.
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.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch Mcconnell, meanwhile, said, “I think this will be a very interim AG.” Another Republican senator, Susan Collins of Maine, 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 Robert Mueller.
Whitaker stayed out of the public debate Friday. He sent a department-wide note after his appointment in which he said, “As we move forward, I am committed to leading a fair Department with the highest ethical standards, that upholds the rule of law, and seeks justice for all Americans.”
Legal scholars are debating the constitutionality of his appointment, with some lawyers saying it is illegal because he has not been confirmed by the Senate.
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. Rosenstein told reporters Friday that based on his experiences with Whitaker, “I think he’s a superb choice for attorney general.”
Of the scrutiny Whitaker is facing, Trump said, “It’s a shame that no matter who I put in they go after.”
“He was very, very highly thought of, and still is highly thought of, but this only comes up because anybody that works for me, they do a number on them,” Trump said.