A court challenge is being raised in Maryland over the presidential appointment of Iowa native Matt Whitaker as acting U.S. attorney general because he wasn’t confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, says it’s a legitimate concern to raise. “I asked that very same question of him last week when I had a short telephone conversation with him,” Grassley says. “I never gave it any thought until I started hearing on TV that the question was being raised as you’ve raised.”
Whitaker was serving as chief of staff to Jeff Sessions, who resigned as attorney general last week at the president’s request. President Trump then named Whitaker to replace Sessions. Grassley says he’s confident Whitaker is on solid legal ground.
“There is, within the Justice Department, an Office of Legal Counsel,” Grassley says, “and he told me they were satisfied that his appointment was within the law and within the Constitution.” Whitaker has stated publicly that the investigation should be abandoned that’s being led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into alleged Russian tampering in the 2016 election.
Grassley was asked why that statement by Whitaker wouldn’t disqualify him from overseeing the probe. “Because they were made as a private citizen and not as a public official,” Grassley says. “I think it would be very wrong for the president or Matt Whitaker or anybody else to interfere with the special counsel’s job.”
President Trump is expected to ask the U.S. Senate to confirm Whitaker to the job permanently. Whitaker is an Ankeny native who has twice run for statewide office in Iowa. He also served for more than five years as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa.