Senators sue Trump over appointment of justice chief Whitaker

Nov 22, 2018, 02:04
Senators sue Trump over appointment of justice chief Whitaker

Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island filed the suit on November 19, arguing that Whitaker's appointment violates the Constitution because he hasn't yet been confirmed by the Senate.

The Constitution's Appointments Clause requires that the Senate confirm high-level federal government officials, including the Attorney General, before they exercise the duties of the office, the Senators say.

Miller's team argued to the court the designation of Whitaker as Acting Attorney General "has no effect on this case".

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Trump has said there is "no rush" to name a new attorney general, and the Justice Department has concluded the move is legal and constitutional. Miller has refused to comply with a subpoena demanding his testimony before a federal grand jury, and a lower-level court judge found him in contempt of court.

Whitaker, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa during the George W. Bush administration, vied for the GOP Senate nomination in Iowa in 2014 but lost to Sen. The Attorney General has a number of responsibilities, including appointing immigration judges, determining whether to enforce federal statutes and overseeing the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Vladeck said there is Supreme Court precedent for the argument that Whitaker's assignment is temporary and therefore not an "appointment" under the Constitution.

The day after Sessions' ouster, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets across the nation to highlight the "existential threat" Whitaker poses to Mueller's investigation. "I think he's astute politically".

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"Indeed, before deciding whether to give their consent to Mr. Whitaker serving in such a role, Plaintiffs and other members of the Senate would have the opportunity to consider his espoused legal views, his affiliation with a company that is under criminal investigation for defrauding consumers, and his public comments criticizing and proposing to curtail ongoing DOJ investigations that implicate the President", they added. His appointment leap-frogged Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, which also gave Whitaker control over the Mueller investigation that had previously been supervised by Rosenstein.

Even though no challenge of Mueller's authority has up to now been successful, George Papadopoulos, the former Trump foreign policy advisor guilty of lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, recently revealed he was hopeful that Miller's appeal would be "successful", so that it would be shown that Mueller "lacked constitutional authority" to prosecute him in the first place.

Trump also said his written answers to questions the Mueller team posed to him is likely all he will provide the special counsel, though he will weigh any follow-up request from the prosecutor for a sit-down interview.

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In response to the special counsel's brief, Kamenar told ABC News in a statement on Monday, "The Special Counsel's brief simply argued that the appointment of Whitaker has no bearing on the way the Court should resolve our challenge to Mueller's authority". It is the most high-profile litigation so far to be brought challenging Whitaker's appointment.