“I would indict Hillary Clinton,” read the July 2016 USA Today op-ed penned by Matthew Whitaker, Donald Trump’s now acting attorney general.
What a coincidence. The New York Times reported Tuesday that this spring Trump wanted his White House counsel Don McGahn to direct the Department of Justice to prosecute both Hillary Clinton and former FBI Director James Comey. McGahn reportedly rejected the request, explaining to Trump that he didn’t have the legal authority to order such a prosecution and doing so would put Trump on shaky ground politically and perhaps even otherwise. McGahn also followed up by memorializing his advice in a memo (in other words, there’s a written record).
In the op-ed, Whitaker took issue with then-FBI Director Comey’s conclusion in summer of 2016 that “no reasonable prosecutor” would indict Clinton over her handling of government emails.
“I disagree,” Whitaker wrote. “I believe myself to have been a reasonable prosecutor, and when the facts and evidence show a criminal violation has been committed, the individuals involved should not dictate whether the case is prosecuted.”
This is just one more instance in which Whitaker’s public assertions appear to fulfill Trump’s greatest aspirations for how the Justice Department would be run. Of course, Whitaker has also taken a very skeptical view of Robert Mueller’s Russia probe and even mused about how it could be effectively ended.
When he was serving as chief of staff to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Whitaker also spoke regularly with Trump and top White House aides. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly even bragged about Whitaker being the the West Wing’s “eyes and ears” within the Justice Department. Whitaker’s role bears eerie parallels to the Watergate era, when President Richard Nixon plumbed a mole within the Justice Department to track the agency’s investigation into his own presidency.
On Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer urged the Justice Department’s Inspector General to investigate whether Whitaker improperly shared confidential information with Trump about Mueller’s investigation.
“I write today to urge you to begin an immediate investigation into whether there has been any political interference with an ongoing Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation related to President Trump’s campaign, transition, and administration’s contacts with the Russian Federation and attempts of Russia to interfere with the 2016 United States election,” Schumer wrote to Michael E. Horowitz, the department watchdog.
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