Dems and Some Republicans Raise 'Obstruction of Justice' Objections to Trump's Appointment of Whitaker

By Susan Jones | November 8, 2018 | 5:26am EST
29: (L-R) Department of Justice Chief of Staff Matt Whitaker, right, in a meeting at the Justice Department on August 29, 2018. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

( - Democrats are fuming that President Trump's ouster of his long-estranged Attorney General Jeff Sessions looks like another attempt to interfere with the Special Counsel investigation into alleged Trump-Russia coordination in the 2016 campaign.

Trump fanned the flames on Wednesday, tweeting: "According to NBC News, Voters Nationwide Disapprove of the so-called Mueller Investigation (46%) more than they Approve (41%). You mean they are finally beginning to understand what a disgusting Witch Hunt, led by 17 Angry Democrats, is all about!"

Then Trump tweeted that Sessions was out, that a "permanent replacement will be nominated at a later date, and that Matthew Whitaker, Session's chief of staff at the Justice Department will be the new acting attorney general. "He will serve our country well," Trump said.

Democrat leaders also took to twitter, demanding that Whitaker also recuse himself, as Sesssions did, given his previous comments about the scope of Mueller's probe.

In a 2017 op-ed for CNN, Whitaker wrote, "It does not take a lawyer or even a former federal prosecutor like myself to conclude that investigating Donald Trump's finances or his family's finances falls completely outside of the realm of his 2016 campaign and allegations that the campaign coordinated with the Russian government or anyone else. That goes beyond the scope of the appointment of the special counsel."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) tweeted on Wednesday, "It is impossible to read Attorney General Sessions’ firing as anything other than another blatant attempt by @realDonaldTrump to undermine & end Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation.""

And Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the incoming chair of the House Judiciary Committee, tweeted: "Americans must have answers immediately as to the reasoning behind @realDonaldTrump removing Jeff Sessions from @TheJusticeDept. Why is the President making this change and who has authority over Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation? We will be holding people accountable."

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) tweeted, "If there is any indication that the President has fired the Attorney General and named Mr. Whitaker as Acting Attorney General to influence or end Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation, that would make today’s action an historic attack on the rule of law."

Coons later spoke to MSNBC's Rachel Maddow:

If he forced out Attorney General Jeff Sessions and replaced him, not with Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, but instead with a loyalist, Matthew Whittaker, in order to have Acting Attorney General Whittaker squeeze or end the investigation by Robert Mueller, that would be an obstruction of justice action.

And there have been some strong words by senators, both Republican and Democrat, for months, cautioning President Trump against interfering with the Mueller investigation. But many senators have said if the president is innocent, it's in his best interest to have this investigation go all the way to its conclusion.

Now there were some more statements today by a Senator-elect Mitt Romney, by senator Lamar Alexander, by Senator Susan Collins, by many Democrats, as well, saying the president should not interfere.

But if, as your previous guest indicated, there's a decisive step taken to curtail the scope and the reach the funding or the support of the Mueller investigation, that would be a decisive moment, and we would need to match these words with action.

I'm calling Senate to take up and vote on and pass the bipartisan bill that I introduced last year, with three other senators. It's already passed the senate judiciary committee by a strong bipartisan vote of 14-7. It's ready for action on the floor, and this strikes me as the sort of moment that should precipitate bipartisan action in the Senate.

Coons's bill would bar interference in the Mueller investigation.

The liberal activist group, meanwhile, has scheduled "urgent" nationwide protests at 5 p.m. on Thursday, "demanding immediate action to hold Trump accountable and protect the Mueller investigation."

It never ends, in other words.

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