A group of Senate Democrats are suing to try to strike down President Trump’s appointment of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general.
The suit, filed in DC federal district court by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (CT), Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), and Mazie Hirono (HI), argues that Whitaker’s appointment was unconstitutional because he was not confirmed by the Senate to his prior position.
“The U.S. Senate has not consented to Mr. Whitaker serving in any office within the federal government, let alone the highest office of the DOJ,” the lawsuit reads.
The new suit adds to a rapidly growing pile of legal challenges against Whitaker’s appointment — from a Texas business leader, from the state of Maryland, and in connection with a gun rights case.
On November 7, Trump asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign, and Sessions agreed. But rather than letting Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein succeed to the post, Trump installed Whitaker, who was Sessions’s chief of staff — a job that did not require Senate confirmation.
Trump did this by using a law called the Vacancies Reform Act. Some legal experts have argued the appointment was legal. But others assert the president can’t bump someone up to a Cabinet-level position (a “principal officer” of the executive branch) if that person hasn’t been confirmed by the Senate for this stint in government. That’s the argument Senate Democrats are making in this lawsuit.
Democrats have been sounding the alarm about Whitaker, who repeatedly echoed Trump’s criticisms of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe before he joined the Justice Department. Sessions had recused himself from oversight of Mueller’s investigation, but Whitaker has given no indication he’ll do the same. There are also various controversies involving his business background.
Blumenthal, Whitehouse, and Hirono say the Senate should have been able to review Whitaker’s “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” before his appointment.
“If allowed to stand, Mr. Whitaker’s appointment would create a road map for the evasion of the constitutionally prescribed Senate advice-and-consent role,” they add.
You can read the complaint here: