The Judiciary Act of 1789 created the position of the Attorney General of the United States. The Organization, Mission and Functions Manual of the U.S. Department of Justice spells out the duties of the Attorney General:
- Represent the United States in legal matters.
- Supervise and direct the administration and operation of the offices, boards, divisions, and bureaus that comprise the Department.
- Furnish advice and opinions, formal and informal, on legal matters to the President and the Cabinet and to the heads of the executive departments and agencies of the government, as provided by law.
- Make recommendations to the President concerning appointments to federal judicial positions within the Department, including U.S. Attorneys and U.S. Marshals.
- Represent or supervise the representation of the United States Government in the Supreme Court of the United States and all other courts, foreign and domestic, in which the United States is a party or has an interest as may be deemed appropriate.
- Perform or supervise the performance of other duties required by statute or Executive Order.
Foreign and Domestic
Under 5 U.S.C. Sec. 3331, the Attorney General must swear that he or she will “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that [he or she] will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that [he or she will] take this obligation freely, without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion; and that [he or she] will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which [he or she are] about to enter. So help me God.”
In September 2017, a former assistant U.S. Attorney named Matthew Whitaker was named by President Donald Trump to be the chief of staff to former U.S. Attorney Jeff Sessions. Some believe that Trump inserted Whitaker in the Justice Department in order to have a back channel to the inner workings of the department and to keep tabs on Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Whitaker: Unusual Choice for AG
On November 7, 2018, Trump demanded and received Jeff Sessions’ resignation as attorney general and installed Whitaker, without Senate confirmation, as Acting Attorney General. Whitaker became the tenth acting attorney general since October 23, 1973 when Robert Bork was named the first “acting” attorney general by former President Richard M. Nixon. Nine of the ten became acting attorneys general under a Republican president, and nine of the ten had established distinguished legal careers prior to becoming acting attorneys general.
Except Matthew Whitaker.
This acting attorney general’s public career established two things before Trump recognized his sycophant potential: he was overly ambitious and dramatically underachieving. He was born in Des Moines, Iowa in 1969. He attended the University of Iowa where he got a bachelor’s degree in communications, a master’s degree in business administration and a law degree in 1995. Some would say he would be a failure in all three career choices: communications, business, and law.
Whitaker’s romance with failure began when his college aspirations to be in the film industry and to be a star player in the NFL did not pan out. His communications degree did not get him inside a film industry door. He decided after graduating from law school that he would undertake a legal career. He got a job with a number of law firms in Iowa and Minnesota, even becoming “corporate counsel” for a national grocery company called SuperValu. In 2004, he told a Senate Judiciary Committee that his most important legal cases “dealt with a personal injury claim and breaches of contracts.”
Similarities with POTUS
When being a movie mogul and an NFL star did not materialize and the legal profession produced only one notable personal injury claim and a couple of breaches of contract claims, Whitaker decided to put his master’s degree in business to work for him. He purchased interests in a day care business, a manufactured home business and the concrete business—the latter of which led to him being sued for not paying his business bills.
That signaled the beginning of the business fraud and professional misconduct that would become the hallmark of Matthew Whitaker’s public life.
In 2014, he joined a company called World Patent Marketing that catered to military veterans. This invention firm turned out to be what Esquire Magazine called the World’s Biggest Scam by patenting the following ideas and designs:
- DNA collected in 2013 proved Bigfoot exists;
- Time travel will be feasible within the next decade; and
- A masculine toilet for men whose penises are 12” or more that allows them to have their masculinity hang freely without touching the toilet water.
The Federal Trade Commission fined WPM $26 million earlier this year for promising to market these inventions for the patent holders but doing absolutely nothing for them. It was a scam and Whitaker was on the company’s advisory board and actively took part in threatening any client who dared to complain about the company’s fraudulent practices. The company is now under criminal investigation, including those threats made to clients in emails by Whitaker.
Political Appointments, Agendas Are Not New
Besides having a penchant for business fraud, Whitaker in 2002 decided to give politics a try. With the support of longtime Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, Whitaker ran for the state treasurer’s position in Iowa but lost the race to the incumbent Democrat. Two years later Sen. Grassley somehow managed to get President George Bush to appoint Whitaker as an Assistant U.S. Attorney, despite the fact that the once aspiring movie mogul lacked both the legal experience and professional judgment to hold such a prestigious government position.
During his five year tenure as Assistant U.S. Attorney (2004-09), Whitaker pushed to have stiff sentences imposed in drug cases and used his office to investigate political enemies on trumped up charges, like going after openly gay state Democratic Senator Matt McCoy. Local media accused Whitaker of investigating and prosecuting Sen. McCoy because of his sexual preference and this endeared Whitaker to the evangelical Christians who revel in the anti-gay movement.
In another case (a drug case), U.S. District Judge Robert W. Pratt of the Southern District of Iowa charged that Whitaker and his staff had “misused” their authority by threatening a female defendant with a life sentence if she did not accept a 21-27 year plea deal. The woman was forced to accept the deal and spent 11 years in a federal prison before President Barak Obama commuted her sentence, setting her free.
Football Qualifies for State’s Highest Court
After being replaced as U.S. Attorney in 2009 by President Obama, Whitaker sought a position on the Iowa Supreme Court. Four pages of his 2010 ten-page job application stressed that he was qualified for the state’s highest court because he played football at the University of Iowa, including an appearance in a Rose Bowl game. He actually believed that his very limited prowess on the football field qualified him to be a state supreme court justice.
Fortunately, Whitaker did not get the job, sparing that court of having to endure his bedrock judicial philosophy; namely, that judges should be Christians who rely on the Bible over the Constitution to make decisions; that the judicial branch should be inferior to the other two branches of government; and that the landmark 1803 decision Marbury v. Madison should be reversed.
With a judicial position out of the picture, Whitaker decided to run for the U.S. Senate in 2014 but lost out to the powerful Tea Party supported candidate Joni Ernst.
Separation of Church and State?
Always the religious fanatic, Whitaker said judges should have a “biblical worldview” in making decisions and that “secular” judges are unfit to serve on any bench. Judges, he believes, should be servants of the Lord, not the people—and that they should pay due religious deference to the Executive and Legislative branches of government by accepting, not interpreting decisions made by those two branches.
With Joni Ernst in his rear view mirror, Whitaker in 2016 became part of a “dark money” group called Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT). This group, with confidential evangelical and right-wing donors, was created to launch attacks to undermine Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. Whitaker was paid anywhere from $900,000 to $1.2 million to carry out this FACT agenda.
Once Trump was securely in the Oval Office, Whitaker launched a new career effort to get noticed by the president. He initially succeeded in getting an interview with White House counsel Don McGahn about being a “legal attack dog” against the Mueller investigation. But a White House position didn’t work out for this man willing to “take a knee” in utter submission to the president.
Media Attacks Catch President’s Eye
Undeterred, Whitaker managed to weasel his way into a number of media pundit positions that he used to attack the Mueller investigation and ingratiate himself with the president. If he could not walk into the president’s inner circle, he would crawl there whining and whimpering.
This sycophantic strategy was one of the few successes in Matthew Whitaker’s professional life—the ability to display such legal incompetence and deference to the Executive Office that he eventually won the praise and admiration of a president who believes Twitter is more important than the Constitution.
We fear that Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker will make the draconian Jeff Sessions look like a “bleeding heart liberal” before all is said and done. The constitutional rule of law, we worry, will be replaced with political expediency, and the U.S. Justice Department will become Trump’s weapon of choice to attack and “lock up” all of his real and imagined political enemies.
Trump and Whitaker: these are indeed scary times in which we live. These two coconspirators in crime are a dangerous threat to this nation’s democracy.