Friday, November 9, 2018

Trump picks Whitaker - who wants to 'lead a Department of Injustice'

OK. There I go again making sh!t up. But Whitaker is one scary dude.

Mark Sumner at Daily Kos: Matthew Whitaker’s work as a scam artist and threatening bully makes him the perfect Trump AG.

On Wednesday, Donald Trump did a dance in front of the press while behind the scenes the chairs were being shuffled at the Department of Justice. Matthew Whitaker—who was appointed to the DOJ a year ago entirely based on an editorial he wrote suggesting ways that a new attorney general might end Robert Mueller’s investigation—is now in charge of that investigation. Whitaker has moved from being a failed candidate for a local judge to attorney general of the United States in less than two years on the basis of simply telling Donald Trump what he wants to hear.

While Rod Rosenstein hasn’t been fired, he doesn’t need to be. Robert Mueller now reports to Whitaker; the guy who proposed firing him, limiting the scope of his investigation, or cutting his budget to the point where the investigation was “effectively dead.”

Whitaker may have already instituted changes in the Mueller investigation. Significant changes in staffing might be visible. Might. But some of the changes that Whitaker proposed, like severely limiting Mueller’s budget or setting the scope of the investigation so that everything other than a handful of actions were off limits, would not. It’s not as if Mueller is going to put out a press release, and Whitaker knows that. One sign of Whitaker’s effect on the investigation could be—no sign at all. In issuing new indictments, Mueller would likely have to go to Whitaker for approval. It’s unclear how this might affect existing indictments already under seal, but if there is a continued ringing silence from the Russia investigation, it could well be because pending actions are going from Whitaker’s inbox straight to the circular file.

But it’s not as if writing anti-Muller editorials, or appearing on TV as an anti-Mueller commentator has been Whitaker’s only job over the last few years. As the Daily Beast reports, Whitaker was behind a secretive group that stepped in to protect members of the Trump campaign from allegations of meetings with Russian officials. That included trying to distract from the fact that Jeff Sessions lied about his meetings with the Russian ambassador in Senate testimony, by challenging Democratic senators to list all of their meetings. The organization was also connected to spreading rumors that Christine Blasey Ford mistook Brett Kavanaugh for another high school classmate.

When not busy interfering in the Russia investigation, Whitaker also kept busy promoting a patent scam. As Miami New Times reports, Whitaker wasn’t just on the board of a company selling would-be inventors worthless (and nonexistent) “worldwide patents,” he also sent threatening letters to a former customer of the scam who complained about being taken for tens of thousands of dollars. World Patent Marketing charged some customers over $70,000 for their patent services, did nothing, and used Whitaker to bully people into silence.

In one email included in thousands of pages of documents New Times reviewed, he accused a customer of “possible blackmail or extortion” and threatened “serious civil or criminal consequences.”

Just two days before Whitaker moved into the front office, CNN reported that Whitaker’s appointment would be an issue because of his connections to attacks on the Russia investigation. They reported that Trump was aware that Whitaker “would likely have to recuse” from anything connected to Mueller’s investigation because of his history of attacks on the investigation. But now that the scam artist is installed, the idea of recusal seems to be … recused.

While Whitaker has spoken with Trump directly about his future at the Justice Department, reportedly even contemplating taking his boss’s job, the White House has been informed that he too would likely have to recuse from the Russia investigation in light of some of his past writings and TV appearances.

But now that he’s there … recusal seems to not be an issue.

Now that Whitaker is in place, it’s been made clear that he is supervising the Russia investigation and there’s no sign that he’s about to recuse himself from any action. He’s putting his scam-management skills to work in support of Donald Trump. Because while being a threatening two-time loser and scam artist might not sound like a great resume for attorney general, it’s perfect for the Trump White House.

Whitaker is a one-man shop of horrors

The New York Times headline tells just part of the worry: Acting Attorney General Matthew G. Whitaker Once Criticized Supreme Court’s Power (writes Charlie Savage).

The acting attorney general, Matthew G. Whitaker, once espoused the view that the courts “are supposed to be the inferior branch” and criticized the Supreme Court’s power to review legislative and executive acts and declare them unconstitutional, the lifeblood of its existence as a coequal branch of government.

Here is more from the Times’ report.

"The truth is there was no collusion with the Russians and the Trump campaign,” Mr. Whitaker said in an interview on “The Wilkow Majority,” a conservative political talk radio show, in summer 2017.

He also argued last year that the president could not have obstructed justice by asking the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, to end an investigation into his first national security adviser, a broad notion of executive power that Mr. Trump’s lawyers have also embraced. …

Before joining the Trump administration last fall, Mr. Whitaker sat on the advisory board of a patent marketing company in Florida that was shut down and ordered this year to pay consumers nearly $26 million. The Federal Trade Commission accused the company, World Patent Marketing, of bilking thousands of customers who believed they were receiving patents.

Mr. Whitaker’s 2014 interview also suggested that he is likely to hold fast to Mr. Sessions’s position in a lawsuit brought by Republican-controlled states seeking to have the Affordable Care Act’s insurance protections for people with pre-existing conditions struck down. … "We need to do everything we can to repeal it, defund it, delay it — we need to do whatever it takes,” Mr. Whitaker said of the Affordable Care Act in 2014.

He also signaled opposition to abortion rights, saying that he believed “life begins at conception,” and to same-sex marriage rights, saying that “it’s traditionally been up to the churches and to God to define that.” …

Mr. Whitaker voiced a hard line on immigration, saying he did not believe in “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants who are already inside the country …

He indicated that he did not believe mass shootings justified more restrictive gun control laws, …

… he believed the federal government should play no role in public education. “The Department of Education should be disbanded and the resources either returned to the taxpayers or put into the schools,” he said. “Bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., shouldn’t know how to better educate my kids than I do.”

On the issue of climate change, Mr. Whitaker said he was “not a climate denier,” but also said that while the globe may be warming and human activities may contribute, “the evidence is inconclusive” and “that’s very small and it may be part of the natural warming or cooling of the planet.” As a result, he said, he did not believe in regulations aimed at curbing carbon emissions that could “hamstring” the American economy.

Whitaker appointment may be unconstitutional

The Times reports on the reaction from legal scholars, Democrats in the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees, and concerned citizens.

While the Justice Department was treating Mr. Whitaker’s installation as acting attorney general as a done deal, prominent legal experts insisted that it was unconstitutional. Justice Department officials have pointed to the Vacancies Reform Act, a law that Congress passed in 1998, which set out the procedures that Mr. Trump used to name Mr. Whitaker as acting attorney general without Senate confirmation.

But only someone whom the Senate has confirmed can run the Justice Department, even on an interim basis, according to an opinion column in The New York Times by Neal K. Katyal, a former acting solicitor general in the Obama administration, and George T. Conway III, a conservative lawyer who is married to Mr. Trump’s adviser Kellyanne Conway.

“We cannot tolerate such an evasion of the Constitution’s very explicit, textually precise design,” they wrote, adding, “For the president to install Mr. Whitaker as our chief law enforcement officer is to betray the entire structure of our charter document.”

Laurence H. Tribe, a constitutional law professor at Harvard Law School, said that Mr. Whitaker’s expressed views of the Constitution and the role of the courts “are extreme and the overall picture he presents would have virtually no scholarly support” and would be “destabilizing” to society if he used the power of the attorney general to advance them.

Simultaneously criticizing the Supreme Court’s power of judicial review while criticizing cases where it declined to strike down laws regulating economic and health insurance matters was a sign of an “internally contradictory” and “ignorant” philosophy, Mr. Tribe said. Because the attorney general oversees decisions about which laws the Justice Department will defend and can decide which ones not to enforce, he said, Mr. Whitaker’s views were likely to have faced sharp scrutiny even from Republicans in a confirmation hearing.

Groups throughout the nation marched on Thursday to support the inquiry of Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, and to protest Mr. Whitaker’s appointment. Thousands demonstrated in dozens of cities, including in Washington, Philadelphia, Omaha and Salt Lake City.

At Daily Kos, Mark Sumner offers a depressing conclusion. Trump may take advantage of a two-month hiatus before the new Congress has a chance to act.

Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee are calling for emergency action and demanding that all documents connected to Sessions, Whitaker, and their supervision of the Mueller investigation be saved. Representative Elijah Cummings, who will chair the Oversight Committee in January, has also sent a letter warning against interference in the investigation. But the timing of Whitaker’s appointment during the interval between the election and the start of the new Congress was deliberate. It gives Trump time to move against Mueller while Democrats are still essentially powerless to act.

By the time Democrats actually have the power to issue orders and subpoenas, Mueller could be gone, a new attorney general could be in place, and Whitaker could be on to a new role in the Trump White House. Efforts to restart the investigation will be criticized by Republicans as “endlessly rehashing something that’s already been investigated.” Instead, they’ll suggest the DOJ can spend its time more profitably checking out Hillary Clinton’s email, Uranium One, or Benghazi.

We hope that Whitaker does not remake the DOJ into the DOI.

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