Conservatives have many reasons to be optimistic about acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker, following the resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday. Here are five things you should know about him.
1. Positioned well to take the fight to Mueller
Whitaker is a longtime critic of Mueller’s endless Russia probe, which has failed to produce a scintilla of evidence related to Russian collusion. He has previously suggested drastically reducing the budget of Mueller’s special counsel probe, in order to thwart Mueller’s threat to the president’s constitutional mandate. Whitaker has also argued that Mueller has overstepped his authority. As acting attorney general, he will be well positioned to rein in the special counsel.
Mueller is said to be in the process of writing his “final report,” which is sure to be incredibly hostile to the Trump administration and people close to the president. The president may need to have a poised AG by his side when Mueller’s attack dogs once again come after his legitimacy.
2. He takes authority away from Rod Rosenstein
Early indications are that Whitaker has no intention of recusing himself from oversight over the Mueller probe, thereby shifting oversight away from the controversial Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Rosenstein has several severe conflicts of interest when it comes to the Mueller probe and the Obama administration’s “spygate” efforts against President Trump and his associates. Rosenstein signed off on multiple Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) applications to extend surveillance on Trump campaign aide Carter Page, who was unfairly accused of being a Russian spy. The saga was only one instance of extreme overreach by members of the Obama administration. Rosenstein offered a weak wave-off of his role in the surveillance process, claiming he may not have read the whole FISA application before signing off on it.
3. He’s not afraid to go after the untouchables
The acting AG has in the past said that there is a strong case to “indict” Hillary Clinton for violating several U.S. laws during her government service.
“I believe myself to have been a reasonable prosecutor, and when the facts and evidence show a criminal violation has been committed, the individuals involved should not dictate whether the case is prosecuted,” Whitaker wrote in a 2016 op-ed for USA Today.
“A reasonable prosecutor may ask, if on numerous occasions, an unknown State Department employee had taken top secret information from a secured system, emailed that information on a Gmail account, and stored the information on a personal server for years, would that individual be prosecuted? I believe they would.”
In a separate op-ed for The Hill, Whitaker vehemently disagreed with fired FBI Director James Comey’s decision to recommend against the prosecution of Hillary Clinton.
4. Whitaker can continue Sessions’ progress on crime and immigration issues
Conservative immigration and crime hawks are in good hands with the acting AG, according to people who know him well.
“[Whitaker] is a strong supporter of President Trump’s agenda on religious liberty, immigration, drugs, violent crime, and protecting the rule of law,” a senior Trump administration official who was not authorized to speak on the record tells Conservative Review.
Andy McCarthy of National Review also has high regard for Matt Whitaker, describing him as “well credentialed and an excellent choice to assume the duties of attorney general.”
5. An acting attorney general can still accomplish a lot
Under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, Whitaker can serve 210 days without Senate confirmation before the president nominates a permanent attorney general. During that period, and into the confirmation process, he has plenty of time to accomplish the aforementioned tasks.