White House digging in on selection of Matt Whitaker as temporary replacement for Sessions

President Donald Trump and White House officials are digging in on the appointment of Matthew Whitaker as ac...

Posted: Nov 13, 2018 4:20 PM
Updated: Nov 13, 2018 4:20 PM

President Donald Trump and White House officials are digging in on the appointment of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general, which has drawn waves of criticism from Democrats and some conservative legal scholars.

The President also has no intention of rushing to nominate a permanent replacement for ousted Attorney General Jeff Sessions, resisting the pressure to minimize Whitaker's time at the helm of the Justice Department in an acting capacity, two senior administration officials told CNN.

Appointments

Continents and regions

Donald Trump

Eastern Europe

Europe

Government and public administration

Government bodies and offices

Investigations

Jeff Sessions

Law and legal system

Matt Whitaker

Political Figures - US

Politics

Robert Mueller

Russia

Russia meddling investigation

US federal government

White House

Instead, Whitaker appears poised to remain in his position for weeks, if not months, to come.

"The President has told me to my face, two times, that there's no timetable for a nominee," one senior administration official said. "And there's no rush for that."

Key White House officials have remained privately indignant about the criticism that Whitaker has faced, with some likening it to the scrutiny White House physician Ronny Jackson drew after he was appointed to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs. Several senior administration officials told CNN during the initial criticism of Whitaker's appointment that they were surprised by it and believed it could jeopardize his chances of remaining in the position.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders declined to comment on the state of play with Whitaker, writing in an email: "Nothing new on this front."

But a separate source told CNN that multiple administration officials had cautioned the White House, including White House chief of staff John Kelly, to take a close look at Whitaker's background weeks before he was formally appointed.

While Trump appears poised to keep Whitaker in his position, the President is known to frequently change his mind on personnel matters, leaving even his most senior aides sometimes uncertain about their positioning.

Trump distanced himself somewhat from Whitaker on Friday before leaving for Paris, proclaiming that he "didn't know Matt Whitaker." But he also praised him as "a very highly respected man" and said he believed "he's going to do a great job." He picked him for the position in part because he had grown to like him and trust that Whitaker's loyalties would lie with him, sources told CNN.

"He was very, very highly thought of, and still is highly thought of, but this only comes up because anybody that works for me, they do a number on them," Trump said.

Much of the criticism Whitaker drew stemmed from widely publicized comments he made about special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, which the White House should have known about.

Whitaker's appointment quickly drew fire after his public criticism of the investigation resurfaced, particularly given that Trump passed over Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for the post, taking the Mueller investigation out of his hands and placing ultimate authority in Whitaker's.

In a 2017 CNN op-ed, Whitaker wrote that Mueller was "dangerously close to crossing" a red line following reports that Mueller was looking into Trump's finances and called on Rosenstein to "order Mueller to limit the scope of his investigation." In a July 2017 CNN appearance, Whitaker suggested Sessions' replacement could choke off funding to Mueller's investigation "so low that his investigation grinds almost to a halt."

Legal scholars, including several conservatives, also argued that Whitaker's appointment was unconstitutional because he is not a Senate-confirmed administration official. The White House maintains it is on firm legal ground with the Whitaker appointment.

Amid the criticism, Whitaker has been settling into his new role.

At the Justice Department, Whitaker spent the weekend on the phone with the top department heads and US attorneys across the country to offer reassurance that the priorities of the Department remain the same, according to a source familiar with the matter.

He also received calls of support, including from former Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 78632

Reported Deaths: 3113
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion16437734
Lake7952283
Elkhart505191
Allen4161164
St. Joseph376683
Hamilton3033104
Vanderburgh212215
Hendricks1978109
Johnson1819119
Cass18139
Porter141539
Clark135250
Tippecanoe129312
Madison106266
LaPorte96730
Howard94865
Kosciusko87812
Bartholomew86747
Floyd86150
Marshall80523
Monroe78432
Vigo77913
Delaware77752
Dubois72912
Noble71729
Boone71646
Hancock70239
Warrick61230
Jackson6075
Shelby57328
LaGrange57110
Grant53330
Dearborn52828
Morgan50135
Henry46720
Clinton4624
Wayne41010
White38411
Montgomery36721
Harrison36524
Lawrence35927
Decatur35332
Putnam3318
Daviess29620
Scott28110
Miami2792
Jasper2662
Greene25934
Franklin25116
Gibson2464
DeKalb2444
Jennings23312
Ripley2218
Steuben2173
Carroll2135
Fayette2097
Perry18913
Orange18824
Posey1840
Starke1817
Wabash1805
Wells1802
Fulton1752
Jefferson1752
Knox1711
Sullivan1631
Whitley1626
Tipton15516
Washington1531
Clay1505
Spencer1403
Randolph1345
Huntington1303
Adams1242
Newton12110
Owen1131
Rush1004
Jay970
Pulaski841
Brown762
Fountain762
Pike670
Blackford662
Benton640
Ohio636
Vermillion620
Switzerland590
Parke581
Martin530
Crawford500
Union420
Warren251
Unassigned0207

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 106557

Reported Deaths: 3784
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin19287533
Cuyahoga14120523
Hamilton10001262
Lucas5609324
Montgomery4619101
Summit3749225
Butler310569
Marion295645
Mahoning2665259
Pickaway241142
Stark1947142
Warren191440
Lorain188477
Columbiana170461
Trumbull1598112
Fairfield147334
Delaware139219
Licking139053
Clark123516
Lake116343
Wood111558
Clermont100011
Medina98836
Miami89339
Allen84246
Tuscarawas80614
Portage78264
Greene76512
Mercer67613
Richland63512
Belmont62926
Erie62630
Madison58710
Ashtabula58246
Wayne58160
Geauga56445
Ross5285
Darke44230
Sandusky42117
Hancock4153
Huron4145
Ottawa40827
Athens3662
Lawrence3340
Holmes3326
Auglaize2888
Union2801
Muskingum2651
Scioto2651
Seneca2454
Jefferson2403
Shelby2344
Preble2302
Putnam22117
Knox2199
Washington21222
Coshocton1999
Champaign1922
Morrow1882
Hardin18312
Crawford1815
Clinton1806
Logan1742
Highland1712
Perry1693
Fulton1601
Ashland1593
Wyandot1589
Defiance1574
Brown1532
Williams1393
Fayette1270
Henry1252
Hocking1239
Guernsey1217
Carroll1155
Monroe9618
Gallia852
Pike810
Jackson790
Paulding740
Van Wert732
Adams682
Meigs660
Morgan320
Vinton322
Harrison261
Noble190
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Clear
64° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 64°
Angola
Clear
61° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 61°
Huntington
Few Clouds
64° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 64°
Decatur
61° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 61°
Van Wert
61° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 61°
Weekend Storm Chances
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events