December 28, 2018 – Goodlatte and Gowdy recommend a second counsel to continue investigating the investigators of Hillary Clinton’s emails and Trump Russia collusion
“The outgoing Republican committee chairmen in charge of a year-long probe of how the FBI and Justice Department handled investigations into the Trump campaign’s alleged Russia ties and Hillary Clinton’s emails once again called for a second special counsel to look into such matters in a letter to top administration and congressional officials summing up their work.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., sent their letter to acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. In it, they encouraged them to pick up where the House panels left off and “continue to identify and eliminate bias” at the federal law enforcement agencies “so the public can trust the institutions to make decisions solely on the facts and the law and totally devoid of political bias or consideration.”
“Our 2016 presidential candidates were not treated equally,” Goodlatte and Gowdy wrote in a statement accompanying the release of the letter. “The investigators in both investigations were biased against President Trump.”
The House GOP leaned heavily on details in an inspector general report released earlier this year to make their arguments about bias having infected the FBI and DOJ’s proceedings. The IG’s report found that while certain individuals, such as former top FBI counterintelligence officer Peter Strzok, displayed clear personal bias against Trump, there was no evidence that the conclusions of the investigations themselves were biased.” (Read more: Chicago Tribune, 12/28/2018)
November 23, 2018 – Whitaker’s post provides ample tools to disrupt Mueller probe
“Much of the focus on President Trump’s appointment of Whitaker to temporarily replace former Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been on the possibility of Whitaker removing Mueller, a move that would undoubtedly spark public outrage and trigger full-scale investigations by Democrats, who are poised to take control of the House in January.
But federal regulations offer Whitaker, now acting attorney general, broad authority with respect to the special counsel that extends beyond the ability to remove Mueller, giving him the ability to curtail the probe in ways that would not necessarily become public knowledge until after the Russia investigation is over.
Whitaker has the power to weigh in on any major steps in the probe, such as the issuance of new subpoenas and indictments.
Should he remain at the helm of the Justice Department until the conclusion of the investigation, it will be up to Whitaker to decide which portions, if any, of Mueller’s final report are submitted to Congress or released to the public.
“He has a lot of authority, starting with his authority to remove Mueller if he finds he has good cause for doing so under the relevant regulation,” said Stephen Vladeck, a University of Texas law professor. “There are both hard and soft powers that the relevant regulation gives to the acting attorney general.”
Whitaker has assumed oversight of the probe from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein at a critical point in the investigation, as the special counsel reviews Trump’s written answers to questions about potential collusion between his campaign and Moscow in 2016 and mulls further steps in his scrutiny of longtime Trump ally Roger Stone.
There are no outward signs of Whitaker limiting the probe. In a court filing Monday, Mueller’s team signaled that their authorities remain intact following the leadership shuffle at the Justice Department. Sessions submitted his resignation at Trump’s request on Nov. 7, and Whitaker was named acting attorney general that same day.” (Read more: The Hill, 11/23/2018)
November 14, 2018 – The DOJ Office of Legal Counsel says Matthew Whitaker qualifies as acting attorney general
“The Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel issued an opinion Wednesday supporting President Trump’s appointment of Matt Whitaker as acting attorney general, despite criticism from Democrats who have questioned his qualifications to oversee the Russia investigation.
In its opinion, the Office of Legal Counsel said that the president’s appointment of Whitaker to replace former Attorney General Jeff Sessions was consistent with the Federal Vacancies Reform Act (VRA) of 1998.
“This Office previously had advised that the President could designate a senior Department of Justice Official, such as Mr. Whitaker as Acting Attorney General,” the OLC said, noting that Whitaker has been serving at the Justice Department “at a sufficiently senior pay level for over a year.”
But a senior Justice Department official said this week that when reviewing Whitaker’s appointment, the OLC had to research back to 1866 to find a similar instance where a non-Senate confirmed individual sat as acting attorney general. The Justice Department wasn’t created until 1870, though an attorney general existed prior to that.” (Read more: Fox News, 11/14/2018)
November 7, 2018 – Trump fires Jeff Sessions and appoints Matthew Whitaker as new acting attorney general
“President Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday, replacing him with a loyalist who has echoed the president’s complaints about the special counsel investigation into Russia’s election interference and will now take charge of the inquiry.
Mr. Sessions delivered his resignation letter to the White House at the request of the president, who tapped Matthew G. Whitaker, Mr. Sessions’s chief of staff, as acting attorney general, raising questions about the future of the inquiry led by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.
Mr. Whitaker, a former college football tight end and United States attorney in Iowa, and a onetime Senate candidate in that state, has previously questioned the scope of the investigation. In a column for CNN last year, he wrote that Mr. Mueller would be going too far if he examined the Trump family’s finances. “This would raise serious concerns that the special counsel’s investigation was a mere witch hunt,” Mr. Whitaker wrote, echoing the president’s derisive description of the investigation. Mr. Mueller has subpoenaed the Trump Organization for documents related to Russia.” (Read more: The New York Times, 11/07/2018)
November 22, 2017 – Jeff Sessions orders further scrutiny of Uranium One and the Clinton Foundation
“After it claimed no such document existed, the Justice Department just unearthed a letter Matt Whitaker delivered to the Utah U.S. attorney directing a review of how the department handled the Clinton Foundation and the Uranium One issues.
Then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions wrote the letter on Nov. 22, 2017 for Utah U.S. Attorney John Huber. Matt Whitaker, who was Sessions’ chief of staff at the time, emailed the letter to Huber that day, writing, “As we discussed.” He also sent Huber a copy of a letter the Justice Department’s Congressional affairs chief sent to the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee on Nov. 13 of that year.
The existence of a letter documenting Sessions’ directive that the DOJ revisit probes of Trump’s top political foe is a surprise because a department lawyer said in court last year that senior officials insisted it didn’t exist. The liberal nonprofit American Oversight obtained the letter through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request they filed on Nov. 22, 2017––the same day Whitaker emailed Sessions’ letter to Huber.
The request asked for documentation of the directions Sessions gave Huber about the review of the Clinton investigations. After DOJ failed to produce any written directions, American Oversight sued.
And on Nov. 16, 2018, Senior Counsel in the Office of Information Policy Vanessa Brinkmann, who handles FOIA Requests, said a lawyer in Sessions’ office told her no such letter existed. That lawyer spoke with Huber and Whitaker, she said in a declaration filed in federal court, and then told her that “when the Attorney General directed Mr. Huber to evaluate these matters, no written guidance or directives were issued to Mr. Huber in connection with this directive, either by the Attorney General, or by other senior leadership office staff.”
That wasn’t correct. On Wednesday of last week, a DOJ lawyer told American Oversight that they had found the document that kicked off Huber’s work.
The letter, which American Oversight provided to The Daily Beast, is consistent with what the DOJ’s chief of legislative affairs has told Congress: that Huber is scrutinizing the sale of a Canadian uranium mining company with interests in the United States to Rosatom, a Russian state-owned company. Republicans have long alleged that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declined to oppose the deal because of contributions to the Clinton Foundation.” (Read more: The Daily Beast, 3/09/2019)