He says he’s been “fully briefed” on the special counsel’s investigation. He took over control overseeing the probe after Attorney General Jeff Sessions resigned at the president’s request in November.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating potential coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign to sway the 2016 presidential election. Whitaker says he hopes to receive Mueller’s report as soon as possible.
President Donald Trump has nominated William Barr to serve as the next attorney general. His confirmation hearing was held earlier this month and he’s awaiting a confirmation vote in the Senate.
The Comey-Giuliani connection is another reminder of how the Trump Presidency has dragged us back to the gaudy, big-shouldered Manhattan of the nineteen-eighties. But even Comey appeared thrown by the plot twist involving his old boss. During an interview on Thursday night at Town Hall, when The New Yorker’s David Remnick asked Comey about the Giuliani appointment, he paused for a long moment and said, “I don’t know what to make of it.” He added, “I don’t know what the attorney-client dynamic is like around the President.”
Justice Department attorneys representing Trump asked a federal appeals court on Wednesday to postpone indefinitely all further filings in an appeal related to a suit that the governments of Maryland and Washington, D.C., filed over Trump’s alleged violation of the Constitution’s ban on foreign emoluments.
The government’s brief is not due until Jan. 22, but DOJ lawyers asked the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Richmond, Va., to put the appeal on ice until the shutdown ends.
“The Department does not know when funding will be restored by Congress,” Justice lawyers wrote. “Absent an appropriation, Department of Justice attorneys and employees are prohibited from working, even on a voluntary basis, except in very limited circumstances, including ‘emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property’. … Undersigned counsel for the Department of Justice therefore requests a stay of briefing on the President’s mandamus petition until Congress has restored appropriations to the Department.”
A short time after the government filed the request, the court agreed to put the case on hold indefinitely.
The Justice Department lawyers appear to be asking the appeals court not only to lift the deadlines in the case, but also to extend them by the duration of the shutdown once Congress and the president put new funding in place.
Similar motions were being filed Wednesday in a variety of civil cases the federal government is involved in, including some litigation related to Trump’s policy limiting grants of asylum
The Justice Department is one of the government agencies lacking appropriations because of the shutdown, but most personnel, such as FBI agents, prison guards and criminal prosecutors, have been designated as essential. Lawyers handling civil litigation for the federal government are typically furloughed during a shutdown. However, if a court orders the Justice Department to keep working on a civil case, attorneys are permitted to do so.
Justice Department attorneys are representing Trump in the case because the D.C. and Maryland suit was initially filed against Trump in his official capacity as president. Justice lawyers typically represent all government employees sued in connection with their official duties. The case was later amended — at the suggestion of U.S. District Court Judge Peter Messitte, the judge overseeing it — to name Trump personally as a defendant. He now has private lawyers also representing him in the litigation.
In the statement, lawyers, judges and civil servants say that are ‘disturbed’ by Trump’s choice to appoint Matt Whitaker to the role because he has not been vetted by the Senate.
They call on Trump to nominate a full attorney general to replace Jeff Sessions so that the candidate can be properly examined, and in the meantime to offer the role to the Senate-approved official who is next in line.
Matt Whitaker was appointed acting attorney general after Trump fired Jeff Sessions, but now 400 former DoJ employees have called for a proper Senate-vetted successor.
The statement says: ‘We know that overseeing the Department of Justice is one of the most important roles in our government.
‘The attorney general is responsible for ensuring that we are a nation of laws and that every citizen and every government official – including the President himself – is equally subject to those laws.
‘Because of the profound responsibilities the position entails and the independence it requires, it can only be filled by someone who has been subjected to the strictest scrutiny under the process required by the Constitution.
‘Mr. Whitaker has not been confirmed by the Senate, his qualifications to be the nation’s chief law enforcement officer have not been publicly reviewed, and he has not been fully vetted for any potential conflicts of interest.’
Trump sacked Session after months of criticism for failing to protect him from the Russia probe, but because Whitaker was appointed in an ‘acting’ capacity, he has not been vetted.
After months of chastising Sessions for failing to protect him from the Russia probe into election interference, Trump finally fired his attorney general last month.
Session technically resigned, but made it clear in his letter to Trump that he was offering the resignation ‘at your request’.
He was promptly replaced by Whitaker, a Trump loyalist who has previously described the Russia probe – which he is now overseeing – as a ‘witch hunt’, echoing Trump’s own words.
But because Whitaker was appointed as acting attorney general, he has not faced Senators for the usual cross-examination before being confirmed.
The statement had 421 signatories as of Wednesday morning, but others are being asked to add their names with the list being updated twice daily