There’s persistent debate, mostly among Democrats, about whether Iowa native Matt Whitaker can legally serve as the acting U.S. attorney general.
Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican, says President Donald Trump “would be wise” to formally nominate someone to the post as soon as possible to end the debate. “Why doesn’t he get somebody appointed? We’ve got an acting attorney general,” Grassley says. “Appoint somebody and all of these questions about Whitaker would go away, unless Whitaker was his nominee. Then, of course, they’d be enhanced a great deal.”
Whitaker was chief of staff to Jeff Sessions, who resigned as attorney general earlier this month at the president’s request. Trump then named Whitaker to replace Sessions. Critics argue since Whitaker hasn’t been confirmed by the Senate, he’s not entitled to the post. Grassley says he won’t urge Trump to pick anyone in particular, but he emphasizes, someone should be nominated soon.
“The president is going to make that decision,” Grassley says. “I haven’t suggested anybody to the president so I don’t think I’m going to be in the process of saying it could be Whitaker or not be Whitaker until I settle on somebody that I would be strongly for.” A court challenge was filed recently in Maryland over the presidential appointment of Whitaker to the acting position. Grassley says he’s not going to get any further involved in the process.
“There’s a lot of names that’ve been thrown out there,” Grassley says. “I believe Whitaker’s name is on the list. I’m going to let the president make that choice. If I felt strongly about one of them over the other, I might lobby the president but I have no opportunity to do that.”
Grassley, who chairs the Senate Judicary Committee, says the Office of Legal Counsel has ruled Whitaker is on solid legal ground in the appointment, so Grassley does not intend to call a hearing on Whitaker — unless the president nominates him. 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.