Matt Whitaker has been acting attorney general for just one full day but he’s already under extreme pressure, Axios reports. President Trump, who shocked even some of his senior staff with the hasty timing of his firing of Jeff Sessions, threw Whitaker into an immediate political and legal storm. The White House expected opposition from Democrats but the blowback is widening and now includes a growing body of conservative legal opinion. Congressional Democrats have called on Whitaker, a Trump loyalist, to recuse himself from overseeing the special counsel’s Russia probe because of his critical comments about it.
Prominent attorneys Neal Katyal and George Conway wrote a New York Times op-ed in which they argue Trump’s appointment of Whitaker is illegal because the Constitution dictates that anyone serving in a “principal role” must be confirmed by the Senate. In addition to politicizing the Justice Department, Trump runs a serious risk that any formal actions taken by Whitaker could be declared invalid, Katyal and Conway say. Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores says the appointment is valid under the federal Vacancies Reform Act.