While there are already innumerable questions about whether it is even legal for Donald Trump to appoint someone as acting Attorney General who has not been confirmed for any other position by the Senate, that’s not necessarily the biggest obstacle that acting AG Matt Whitaker is facing as he begins his tenure of thus far undetermined length atop the 100,000-employee organization.
Most believe that Whitaker is unqualified for that reason — sparking an editorial by the husband of Trump’s senior adviser Kellyanne Conway in the New York Times which outlines exactly why Trump technically can’t appoint him: Back in May, when Trump picked up on an article by a conservative law professor that argued the appointment of Robert Mueller was unconstitutional and ran with it, the argument was that Mueller had such broad authority that he should be considered a “principal officer” and therefore would require Senate confirmation.
Given the tenor of talk around the probe at the time Mueller was appointed, he likely would have gotten that confirmation, as he has historically enjoyed near-universal admiration for his fairness and dedication to the truth, even from the most conservative corners of Washington DC:
Robert Mueller is superb choice to be special counsel. His reputation is impeccable for honesty and integrity. Media should now calm down
— Newt Gingrich (@newtgingrich) May 18, 2017
But the professor and the President were incorrect — a “principal officer” answers only to the President, and Mueller, until the appointment of Whitaker, answered to Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein, since former AG Jeff Sessions had recused himself. Mueller would thus be considered an “inferior” officer and not subject to confirmation.
Whitaker, however, does answer only to the President.
But the real problem that the former US Senate candidate from Iowa faces is the fact that inside the Department of Justice — the organization technically responsible for overseeing all law enforcement in the United States — he’s basically considered a joke.
Today the Daily Beast is reporting that some lawyers inside the DOJ have already raised concerns on condition of anonymity:
He’s a fucking fool. He’s spent so much time trying to suck up to the president to get here. But this is a big job. It comes with many responsibilities. He just simply doesn’t have the wherewithal.”
Moreover, the worry is that in his haste to make good with the President who is rewarding his loyalty with such a prestigious job, he may mishandle the absolutely awesome responsibilities of the office, given that there are so many, and that they’re so important. Another unnamed official told TDB:
This guy has spent his whole life trying to climb the rungs of power to get to a federal appointment. Now that he is here, and who knows for how long, he’s going to try and make a name for himself. And that could make things harder for us.”
Featured image via screen capture