Denouncing President Donald Trump’s appointment of acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker—a fervent critic of the Russia probe—as a blatant effort to “subvert the Constitution to protect himself and evade accountability,” three Democratic senators on Monday filed suit against the White House and demanded that Whitaker be barred from temporarily serving as the nation’s top law enforcement official.
“Americans prize a system of checks and balances, which President Trump’s dictatorial appointment betrays.”
—Sen. Richard Blumenthal
“The stakes are too high to allow the president to install an unconfirmed lackey to lead the Department of Justice—a lackey whose stated purpose, apparently, is undermining a major investigation into the president,” declared Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), who joined fellow Democratic Sens. Mazie Hirono (Hawaii) and Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) in filing the lawsuit.
“We want the court to make clear that the Senate must confirm Matthew Whitaker’s appointment as acting attorney general—otherwise this temporary appointment violates the Constitution’s Appointments Clause,” Hirono added in a statement.
.@SenBlumenthal, @SenWhitehouse, and I just filed suit to challenge @realDonaldTrump's unconstitutional appointment of Matthew Whitaker as Acting Attorney General. Donald Trump cannot subvert the Constitution to protect himself and evade accountability.
— Senator Mazie Hirono (@maziehirono) November 19, 2018
As Common Dreams reported, Trump immediately selected Whitaker as acting attorney general after he fired previous Attorney General Jeff Sessions earlier this month.
Legal experts and progressive advocacy groups immediately raised alarm at the prospect of Whitaker overseeing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, given that he argued in an opinion piece last year that the investigation has gone “too far.”
The day after Sessions’ ouster, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets across the nation to highlight the “existential threat” Whitaker poses to Mueller’s investigation.
While the Justice Department has predictably defended Trump’s appointment of Whitaker as legal, Sen. Blumenthal argued in a statement that Whitaker must be confirmed by the Senate in order to lawfully serve as acting attorney general.
“Installing Matthew Whitaker so flagrantly defies constitutional law that any viewer of School House Rock would recognize it. Americans prize a system of checks and balances, which President Trump’s dictatorial appointment betrays,” Blumenthal said. “President Trump is denying senators our constitutional obligation and opportunity to do our job: scrutinizing the nomination of our nation’s top law enforcement official. The reason is simple: Whitaker would never pass the advice and consent test.”