December 6, 2018

Whitehouse Joins Fellow DOJ Alums in Call to Replace Whitaker

Whitehouse: ‘I join my fellow former Department officials in expressing deep concern over Mr. Whitaker’s conflicts of interest and the apparent threat he poses to the Department’s mission and reputation’

Washington, DC – Today, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a former U.S. Attorney, announced he has joined hundreds of fellow Department of Justice alumni in a statement outlining the threat posed by the appointment of Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker.  The statement calls on President Donald Trump to appoint a replacement swiftly, and for the Senate to demand the chance to exercise its Constitutional duty of advice and consent.

Upon joining the statement, Whitehouse said, “Independence from political influence is vital to the Justice Department’s work enforcing our nation’s laws and protecting Americans’ liberties.  Elevating a man with deeply troubling political and professional conflicts of interest to Acting Attorney General by skirting the Senate’s advice and consent is a serious threat to that independenceI join my fellow former Department officials in expressing deep concern over Mr. Whitaker’s conflicts of interest and the apparent threat he poses to the Department’s mission and reputation.”

The former Justice Department officials state:

We, the undersigned, are proud alumni of the United States Department of Justice.  We have served under Senate-confirmed Attorneys General who come from both political parties.

Because of our respect for our oaths of office and our personal experiences carrying out the Department’s mission, we are disturbed by the President’s appointment of Matthew Whitaker to serve as Acting Attorney General.  We know that overseeing the Department of Justice is one of the most important roles in our government.  The Attorney General is responsible for ensuring that we are a nation of laws and that every citizen and every government official?—?including the President himself?—?is equally subject to those laws.  Because of the profound responsibilities the position entails and the independence it requires, it can only be filled by someone who has been subjected to the strictest scrutiny under the process required by the Constitution.

Mr. Whitaker has not been confirmed by the Senate, his qualifications to be the nation’s chief law enforcement officer have not been publicly reviewed, and he has not been fully vetted for any potential conflicts of interest.  While we know that there are thousands of dedicated public servants now at the Department who will do their utmost to protect its mission and reputation, it falls to all of us to ensure that the Department’s role in maintaining the rule of law is not undermined or tainted.  We therefore call on the President to follow the Constitutional process by nominating an Attorney General, and replacing Mr. Whitaker as Acting Attorney General with the Senate-confirmed official who is next in the line of succession by operation of federal law.  We likewise call on the Senate to insist that its Constitutional prerogative to provide advice and consent be respected.

Whitehouse has taken a number of actions to challenge the Whitaker appointment.  Earlier this week, Whitehouse led 10 Senate colleagues in asking the Department of Justice to detail its handling of Whitaker’s serious financial, professional, and political conflicts of interest.  Last month, Whitehouse, along with Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI), challenged the appointment of Whitaker in federal court.  Whitehouse has also filed a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel over possible violations of the Hatch Act by Whitaker while serving in a prior role for the Department.

President Bill Clinton nominated Whitehouse to be Rhode Island’s United States Attorney in 1994.  Whitehouse has served on the Senate Judiciary Committee since his election in 2006.


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