“Nobody is above the law” protests held nationwide to support Muellers probe

Schiff: Dems interested in Sessionss testimony about ouster in next Congress | TheHill
Washington (CNN)As he was preparing to remove Jeff Sessions as attorney general, President Donald Trump had already begun reviewing with his lawyers the written answers to questions from special counsel Robert Mueller.

Acting Attorney General Matthew G. Whitaker has always had his eye on a higher office, even willing to mount a campaign to become Iowa’s treasurer early in his career simply because the Republican Party needed a candidate.

After dropping out of the Republican primary, Christie endorsed Mr. Trump and was in the running to be his running mate. He was also considered for Cabinet positions, among them DHS secretary. He also led Mr. Trumps transition team for a time, although he was marginalized by other Trump aides and had only limited influence. Christie has since rebuilt his relationship with Mr. Trump and other senior officials. 

Mr. Whitaker was trounced in the 2002 election, as expected. But the mundane position was not the goal, fellow Hawkeyes say. Rather, it was to ingratiate himself to the state Republican Party.

The former New York City mayor, who ran for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008, has known Mr. Trump for decades and currently serves as his personal lawyer. Prior to becoming mayor in 1993, Giuliani was the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, where he led numerous prosecutions of mafia figures. 

Video: James Clapper: Why I think Trump picked Sessions replacement

“It was not a competitive race, but he put some goodwill in the Republican bank because of it,” said Guy Cook, a former federal prosecutor who has known Mr. Whitaker for nearly two decades.

That race, while little remembered, was the start of Mr. Whitaker’s long climb toward higher political positions, ultimately leading to Wednesday, when President Trump named him the acting head of the Justice Department in place of ousted Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Bondi has been Floridas attorney general since 2011, and is a close ally of Mr. Trump who frequently appeared on television to support his campaign in 2016. Endorsing him ahead of the Florida primary, Bondi said she had known Mr. Trump “for many years.” 

Top Democrats on Capitol Hill, some of them soon to be powerful committee chairs, fired off letters ordering the White House, FBI, CIA, National Security Agency and others to preserve any records they have of Mr. Sessions’ forced resignation, in anticipation of a full congressional investigation.

The belief that Mueller will issue a report stems from the widely held view in the Department of Justice and the broader legal community that the indictment of a president in office is unconstitutional. A memorandum on the subject prepared by the Justice Departments Office of Legal Counsel in 2000 flatly declared, the indictment or criminal prosecution of a sitting president would unconstitutionally undermine the capacity of the executive branch to perform its constitutionally assigned functions. This consensus opinion, however, is not unanimous; a memorandum prepared by Kenneth Starrs independent counsel investigation in the 1990s took the opposite view.

Meanwhile, legal analysts questioned whether Mr. Trump had the power to leapfrog others, such as Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and appoint Mr. Whitaker, who had been chief of staff at the department — a position that did not require Senate confirmation.

The assumptions about Muellers reluctance to directly indict Trump coupled with the Jaworski and Starr precedents have left the press eagerly tracking rumors of one or more reports from the special counsels Russia probe. A Washington Post story in April of this year, for instance, said Mueller had told Trumps lawyers that he is preparing a report about the presidents actions while in office and potential obstruction of justice. A New York Times story in May, which was based on claims made by former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, Trumps legal spokesman, reported that he hoped to complete his obstruction inquiry by Sept. 1.

Neal K. Katyal, a former Obama administration acting solicitor general, and George T. Conway III, a lawyer and husband of White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, wrote a New York Times column saying the move violates the Constitution’s requirement that all principal officers go through Senate confirmation.

Video: Jeff Sessions submits resignation letter to Trump

No court challenge had been filed as of Thursday afternoon, leaving Mr. Whitaker ensconced in the position — and all sides wondering what sorts of changes he would make at the department.

However, its possible that Mueller will follow a different example entirely. He could adopt the strategy used in a previous high-profile special counsel investigation: the Bush-era probe into the leak of CIA official Valerie Plames name and clandestine status. That investigation, which was led by Muellers close friend Patrick Fitzgerald, did not rely on reports to communicate information to Congress or the public. Instead, recognizing that the regulations he operated under called for no public reports, Fitzgerald spoke only through indictments and prosecutions.

Marijuana enthusiasts, for example, may be expecting a shift in the department’s get-tough prosecution policy. Marijuana company stocks rose sharply Wednesday as Mr. Sessions was ousted.

Mr. Cook said Mr. Whitaker will be independent and described the acting attorney general as “a man of his word.”

“He’s not to be underestimated,” he said. “He is a focused, disciplined guy and nobody’s fool. His reputation is important to him, and those things will come into play as he deals with being the attorney general in these times.”

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But F. Montgomery Brown, an Iowa lawyer who has faced off against Mr. Whitaker in the courtroom, worried that his ambition would be a problem.

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“He’s flying too close to the sun,” said Mr. Brown, a Democrat. “Is attorney general a political job or a job for extremely talented legal professionals, because he’s a political man.”

If the House Judiciary Committee of incoming chairman Jerrold Nadler wishes to impeach Trump for forcing Mueller to fish or cut bait, Trump’s allies should broaden the debate to the real motivation here of the defeated establishment: It detests the man the American people chose to lead their country and thus wants to use its political and cultural power to effect his removal.

After his treasury defeat, Mr. Whitaker worked in Iowa to secure the re-election of President George W. Bush. He coordinated the campaign’s efforts for the Iowa caucuses and racked up credits within the local Republican Party. He was able to parlay his campaign work into confirmation as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Iowa in 2004, despite never prosecuting a criminal case.

Some journalists have become Trump haters with press passes. And Trump is right to speak truth to mainstream media power and to accord to the chronically hostile press the same access to the White House to which Robert De Niro is entitled. Since the days of John Adams, the White House has been the president’s house, not the press’s house.

8 Ways in Which Jeff Sessions Sucked – Hit & Run : Reason.com

“Different parts of the country handle the U.S. attorney’s nominees differently,” Mr. Cook said. “Sometimes you see young people the party thinks is up and coming, sometimes it is given to career prosecutors and a lot of the time you see people rewarded the job for their political activism.”

John F. Kennedy was beloved by the media elite. Yet JFK canceled all White House subscriptions to the New York Herald Tribune and called the publisher of The New York Times to get him to pull reporter David Halberstam out of Vietnam for undermining U.S. morale in a war in which Green Berets were dying.

In a defining moment for Iowa politics, Mr. Whitaker went toe-to-toe with state Sen. Matt McCoy, who was viewed as a rising star in state Democratic politics and was the first openly gay member of the Iowa Legislature.

From Chris Christie to Kris Kobach: Jeff Sessions replacement could be much worse

Mr. Whitaker brought public corruption charges against Mr. McCoy in 2007, saying the senator used his position to force a former business partner to pay him money. Mr. McCoy insisted that the dispute was over a soured business relationship and that he did nothing wrong.

The case largely fell apart with the credibility of the government’s star witness. Former associates depicted the man, Thomas Vasquez, as a drug user, deadbeat and abuser of women. Even his Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor called him a pathological liar. A jury acquitted Mr. McCoy in two hours, including time for lunch.

ROANOKE, Va. (WSET) — Protesters with Roanoke Indivisible joined hundreds of other groups around the nation to speak out and march against what they call a gross injustice. They gathered at the Elmwood Park Amphitheater.

Large Crowd Gathers Near Philadelphia City Hall In Support Of Protecting Mueller Investigation

Mr. McCoy said he believes Mr. Whitaker targeted him as a Democrat and as a member of the LGBT community.

“I think this was completely motivated by him wanting a trophy,” he said. “It was pure ambition, and winning a case against me would have been a political shot in the arm for a guy who had failed politically.”

If theres one set of rules for one group of people in our country who are rich and powerful who are above the law, then we really dont have a democracy,” said Catherine Koebel, another protester.

Listen: Trumps Acting Attorney General Said the President Can Kill Any Investigation He Wants

At the time, Mr. Whitaker, who had strong ties to Iowa’s evangelical community, denied that politics or Mr. McCoy’s sexuality influenced the case.

Video: Demonstrators March Through Philadelphia In Support Of Mueller Investigation

“I do think the fact that Mr. McCoy was a Democrat and the state’s first openly gay legislator was a factor,” he said. “The two of them are polar opposites, and the jury declared the allegations were baseless with a prompt ‘not guilty’ verdict.”

The letter was signed by ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee Dianne Feinstein of California, ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee Jerrold Nadler of New York, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff of California, and ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Elijah Cummings of Maryland.

Local Iowa papers roundly criticized the prosecution. The Des Moines Register in 2007 said the jury’s verdict was “the right one” and called the case an outrage.

The move was interpreted by Democrats as a constitutional crisis and an attempt by Trump to undermine the federal Russia investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is examining Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Kremlin.

Mr. McCoy said he fears Mr. Whitaker won’t be aggressive in prosecuting hate crimes against members of the LGBT community. He praised Mr. Sessions’ efforts to prosecute the killing of a 16-year-old transgender Iowa resident.

In a letter to Trump administration officials including White House counsel Pat Cipollone, FBI Director Chris Wray, and acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker, top lawmakers on multiple committees requested that all documents related to Sessions ouster be submitted to them immediately.

“The signal we got from DOJ is that they were going to continue to prosecute hate crimes very strong under Sessions, but I think Whitaker will be on the wrong side of this issue,” he said.

Whitaker has already come under fire for deeply critical views of special counsel Robert Muellers probe that hed made in the past. In an interview with CNN in 2017, he argued that the inquiry could be kneecapped if the attorney general just reduces his budget so low that the investigation grinds almost to a halt. In a separate editorial for CNN, he wrote that Muellers team had already gone too close to a red-line during the scope of the probe. 

Mr. Whitaker resigned his prosecutor’s post in 2009 with the inauguration of President Obama. He went back into private practice and was co-chairman of Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s 2012 presidential campaign.

In a 2017 interview on The David Webb Show, first reported by Mother Jones, Whitaker argued that, amid reports Trump had asked former FBI Director James Comey to drop an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, there was no case for obstruction of justice regardless of President Donald Trumps motives because the president is entitled to make such calls with his inherent authority.

In 2014, Mr. Whitaker ran for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, coming in third in a Republican primary.

Some prominent legal scholars have already lambasted the choice of Whitaker, including George Conway, the husband of White House adviser Kellyanne Conway. In an op-ed for The New York Times on Thursday, George Conway argued that the appointment was unconstitutional and accused the president of seeking to evade requirements that an attorney general be confirmed by the Senate.

Donald Trump Doesnt Care About Loyalty; He Cares About Himself

He was later executive director of the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, a conservative nonprofit that was deeply involved in criticizing former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s secret emails.

It is time for Rosenstein, who is the acting attorney general for the purposes of this investigation, to order Mueller to limit the scope of his investigation to the four corners of the order appointing him special counsel. Whitaker wrote. If he doesnt, then Muellers investigation will eventually start to look like a political fishing expedition.

Mr. Whitaker also worked as commentator on CNN, where he made the now-famous comments about ending special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation by choking off the funding and argued for limiting the scope of the investigation that he is now running.

Although those statements have drawn media scrutiny in recent days, Mr. Cook noted that Mr. Whitaker made those comments while he was a private citizen.

“He was a paid pundit with a political point of view,” he said. “Those comments were made in that context, and he has a First Amendment right to make whatever comments he wants.”

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