After pushing Attorney General Jeff Sessions out of office, Trump bypassed a plethora of qualified potential replacements. Without question, they would have been constitutionally eligible for the job of acting attorney general. They would have no disabling conflicts of interest relating to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. They would not have brought with them a history of conspiracy theories, nonsensical legal views, and untoward business ventures.
Instead, Trump chose Matthew Whitaker, who comes with all of that baggage and more. To Trump, he’s a “three-fer”: political hack, vocal critic of Mueller’s probe, and unapologetic Trump loyalist.
In March 2017, Trump was increasingly frustrated with his unsuccessful efforts to stop the Trump-Russia probe. Referring to Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s (R-WI) notorious 1950s attorney and hatchet-man, he asked:
“Where’s my Roy Cohn?”
Now Trump has provided the answer: Matthew Whitaker.
The federal courts will resolve the serious legal questions surrounding Whitaker’s legitimacy as acting attorney general. But that may be the least of his problems — which are now the country’s problems — revolving around a single question: Why did Trump send Attorney General Jeff Sessions packing and appoint Whitaker in his place?
Don’t ask Trump. He’ll lie. Even when the truth is obvious, he lies.
Whitaker Got the Job for a Reason
Go to the Trump-Russia Timeline and click on Jeff Sessions’ and Matthew Whitaker’s names. Combining the entries for the two men reveals how Whitaker auditioned for and won a leading role in Trump’s ongoing attack on the rule of law.
On March 3, 2017 — the day after Sessions’ recused himself from the Russia probe — Trump began his relentless barrage against the attorney general. After Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel on May 17, Trump turned up the heat.
Enter Matthew Whitaker, who followed the advice of his fellow failed Iowa politician, Sam Clovis — a grand jury witness in Mueller’s investigation. Clovis had told Whitaker that if he wanted Trump’s favorable attention, Whitaker should get a gig as a cable news commentator and use that forum to blast the Mueller probe.
Roll the Tape
— June 21: Whitaker appears on a right-wing talk radio show and declares: “The truth is there was no collusion with the Russians and the Trump campaign.”
— July 10: Whitaker defends Don Jr.’s decision to meet with Russians at Trump Tower.
— July 19: Using the vehicle of a New York Times interview, Trump continues attacking Sessions.
— July 26: As a CNN pundit, Whitaker outlines a strategy for killing the Mueller probe: fire Sessions; install a Trump lackey as an acting attorney general; let the lackey starve the Mueller probe of funds; Trump-Russia investigation dies.
— July 2017, White House counsel Don McGahn interviews Whitaker about becoming a Trump “legal attack dog” against Mueller. Reportedly, Whitaker didn’t get the job, but you wouldn’t know it from his subsequent behavior:
— August 6: Whitaker criticizes Mueller as “going to far” if he crosses the red line of looking into Trump or Trump family finances.
— August 7: Whitaker says he fears Mueller will engage in a “fishing expedition.”
— August: McGahn pressures Sessions to hire Whitaker as Sessions’ chief of staff.
— Sept. 22: Sessions hires Whitaker as his chief of staff.
— Nov. 7: Trump fires Sessions and appoints Whitaker as acting AG.
Trump Lies About Whitaker for a Reason
In a Nov. 16 interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace, Trump said with a straight face that he had no idea Whitaker held views that were hostile to the Mueller investigation. He claimed not to know that Whitaker-as-CNN pundit had outlined the very strategy that Trump has now employed: fire Sessions and appoint a loyalist lackey who is hostile to the Mueller probe.
But during an interview with the Daily Caller only two days earlier, a reporter’s question about the new acting attorney general caused Trump to make the immediate and obvious connection between Whitaker’s appointment and the Russia probe. Trump said:
“I knew him only as he pertained, you know, as he was with Jeff Sessions. And, you know, look, as far as I’m concerned this is an investigation that should have never been brought. It should have never been had. It’s something that should have never been brought. It’s an illegal investigation.”
It was another “Lester Holt moment.” Just as Trump had admitted on national television that he fired James Comey because Comey was allowing “the Russia thing” to proceed, so, too, Trump acknowledged to the Daily Caller his true motive for firing Sessions and appointing Whitaker: the Russia investigation.
Whitaker Can’t Win This One
Blinded by ambition and personal loyalty to Trump, Whitaker won Sessions’ job. Assuming the federal courts don’t boot him first, he’s still destined for an ignominious end. After completIng Trump’s assigned mission, he’ll go the way of all Trump lackeys who outlive their usefulness. Like them, he will have planted himself firmly on the wrong side of history; his reputation will lie in tatters; his legacy will be another page in the dark chapter of American history known as the Trump era.
It’s the Trumpian way. Call it the reverse-King Midas touch. There’s no honor in becoming Trump’s Roy Cohn.
Here are the latest updates to the Trump-Russia Timeline:
AUG. 27-28, 2016: Smith Meets with Hackers in DC
AUGUST 2017: McGahn Pressures Sessions to Hire Whitaker
SEPT. 22, 2017: Sessions Yields to White House Pressure; Whitaker Becomes Sessions’ Chief of Staff, West Wing’s ‘Eyes and Ears’ at DOJ (revision of previous entry)
AUG. 13, 2018: Another Judge Rejects Challenges to Mueller’s Authority (revision of previous entry)
AUG. 22, 2018: Court Filing Refers Mysteriously to Assange
NOV. 12, 2018: Corsi Says He Expects to Be Indicted; Doesn’t Recall Meeting Assange
NOV. 12, 2018: Trump Refuses to Sign Int’l Cyberattack Attack Accord
NOV. 13, 2018: State of Maryland Challenges Whitaker Appointment
NOV. 14, 2018: McConnell Blocks Bill to Protect Mueller
NOV. 14, 2018: Gates Still Cooperating: Sentencing Process Delayed
NOV. 14, 2018: Trump Pleased with Whitaker
NOV. 15, 2018: Trump Tweets about ‘Inner Workings’ of Mueller Probe; Lies About Mueller; Decries ‘Witch Hunt’; Slams Others
NOV. 15, 2018: Graham: Whitaker Sees No Reason to Fire Mueller
NOV. 16, 2018: Papadopoulos Seeks Postponement
NOV. 16, 2018: Trump Comments on Mueller ‘Hoax’ and Answers to Written Questions
NOV. 16, 2018: Comey Responds to GOP Congressional Demands
NOV. 16, 2018: Trump Trusts Whitaker to Do ‘What’s Right’, Claims Ignorance of Whitaker’s Views about Mueller Probe
NOV. 18. 2018: Trump Attacks Schiff, Mueller