President Trump denies that he knows DOJ’s Matt Whitaker, after he called Whitaker “a great guy.” Critics worry that he could curtail or fire special counsel Robert Mueller.
Matthew Whitaker’s future at the helm of the Justice Department appears uncertain as President Trump denies even knowing the man he named acting attorney general, the Associated Press reports. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) says a permanent replacement could be named soon for Whitaker, who’s now overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible ties between Russia and Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. “I don’t know Matt Whitaker,” Trump said before leaving on a trip to France. That contradicted his remarks last month on Fox News, when he called Whitaker “a great guy” and said, “I mean, I know Matt Whitaker.”
McConnell, separately, said, “I think this will be a very interim AG.” Sen. Susan Collins, (R-ME) said she was concerned by some of Whitaker’s past comments and called for legislation that would place limits on his ability to fire Mueller. That would include specifying that only a Senate-confirmed Justice Department official, which Whitaker is not, could dismiss the special counsel. Since he was named Wednesday, Whitaker has faced pressure from Democrats to step aside from overseeing Mueller, based on critical comments Whitaker made about the investigation before joining the Justice Department last year. There have been reports about Whitaker’s past comments questioning the power and reach of the federal judiciary, and about his ties to an invention-promotion company that was accused of misleading consumers. The Wall Street Journal published an email revealing an FBI investigation into the company, World Patent Marketing Inc. The July 10, 2017, email was from an FBI victims’ specialist to someone who, the newspaper said, was an alleged victim of the company. A Justice Department spokeswoman said Whitaker was “not aware of any fraudulent activity.”