Thursday, November 8, 2018

Jeff Sessions Replaced by Aide Who Said Mueller Should Be Barred From Probing Trump Finances

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Matthew Whitaker takes over as acting attorney general

Jeff Sessions Replaced by Aide Who Said Mueller Should Be Barred From Probing Trump Finances

DONALD TRUMP MOVED to impede the Russia investigation on Wednesday by replacing Attorney General Jeff Sessions with a temporary successor, Matthew Whitaker, who argued last year that Special Counsel Robert Mueller should be barred from investigating the president’s finances.

By naming Whitaker, who has been serving as Sessions’s chief of staff, as the acting attorney general, Trump effectively appointed the former federal prosecutor to oversee the investigation into his 2016 campaign’s contacts with Russia, taking that responsibility away from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller after Sessions had recused himself from the matter.
Before he joined the Justice Department, Whitaker had argued last year in his role as a CNN legal analyst that the Mueller investigation needed to be reined in, writing in an opinion piece 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.”
“The Trump Organization’s business dealings are plainly not within the scope of the investigation, nor should they be,” Whitaker added in that August 6, 2017, op-ed. Referring to reports at the time that the special counsel probe had widened to focus on possible financial crimes, unconnected to the 2016 election, Whitaker wrote that it was time for the Justice Department “to order Mueller to limit the scope of his investigation.”
Whitaker also downplayed the importance of the investigation in a series of appearances on CNN in 2017. In July of that year, he argued that the 2016 Trump Tower meeting between a lawyer connected to the Russian government and Donald Trump’s oldest son, Don Jr., his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was not evidence of collusion.
The same month, he said that while the promised dirt on Hillary Clinton offered by Russian friends of the Trumps turned out to be a “ludicrous” conspiracy theory about Russian funding of the Democrats, there was nothing improper about the campaign agreeing to the meeting. In politics, Whitaker said, “you would always take that meeting.”

Here's the new acting Attorney General in July 2017 defending Don Jr.'s decision to take the Trump Tower meeting with Russians offering "dirt" on Hillary Clinton: "You would always take that meeting."(via CNN)

In another appearance the same month, Whitaker suggested that Trump could force Sessions out and replace him with an acting attorney general who would then have the power to hamper the special counsel by cutting the funding for his investigation.

 “I could see a scenario where Jeff Sessions is replaced,” Whitaker said, “and that attorney general doesn’t fire Bob Mueller, but he just reduces his budget to so low that his investigation grinds to almost a halt.”

On Twitter in 2017, Whitaker also disparaged the Mueller investigation as a “lynch mob.”
Trump’s “Wednesday afternoon massacre” alarmed Democrats, including 
Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, and Sally Yates, a former acting attorney general who was fired by Trump after she refused to defend his Muslim ban in court.
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