Senate Democrats sue over Trump's Whitaker appointment


A group of Senate Democrats is suing to block the appointment of acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker on the grounds that his appointment violates the Constitution.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. district court for the District of Columbia by senators Richard Blumenthal, Sheldon Whitehouse and Mazie Hirono.

"President Trump is denying senators our constitutional obligation and opportunity to do our job: scrutinizing the nomination of our nation's top law enforcement official", Blumenthal said in a statement.

Had the senators had a chance to consider Whitaker, they could have reviewed his criticism of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, the suit says.

This is a developing story. "If allowed to stand, Mr. Whitaker's appointment would create a road map for the evasion of the constitutionally prescribed Senate advice-and-consent role".

The Justice Department legal team, led by longtime federal lawyers now working for Mueller, says Mueller was properly appointed last May by then-acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and continues to work at the discretion of Justice Department leadership.

The Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel issued a 20-page opinion last week arguing that Whitaker's appointment was legitimate, while conceding that the last time that the acting attorney general wasn't Senate-confirmed was in 1866, before the creation of the DOJ.

"Installing Matthew Whitaker so flagrantly defies constitutional law that any viewer of Schoolhouse Rock would recognize it", said Blumenthal in a statement, according to The Washington Post. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., the incoming chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has pledged to make Whitaker his first hearing witness and to subpoena him if necessary.

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Trump dismissed concerns about how Whitaker will deal with the Mueller investigation, but said that he, as president, would not intervene.

Others, including the trio of senators who filed Monday's lawsuit, have argued that Whitaker's appointment violates the Constitution because Whitaker, who worked as Sessions's chief of staff, is not a Senate-confirmed official.

Whitaker has criticized the Mueller probe on multiple occasions, writing in an opinion piece for CNN that it was "going too far" and that Trump's personal finances should be considered off-limits.

Any individual adversely affected by a direct action taken by Whitaker would have legal standing to bring a lawsuit challenging the legitimacy of his appointment, Vladeck said. The attorney, Thomas Goldstein, asked the court to find that Whitaker's appointment is unconstitutional and replace him with Rosenstein.

"Because Whitaker's appointment does not satisfy the Appointments Clause, it is unlawful, and he can not serve as Acting Attorney General", they said.

In Miller's own response to the Whitaker question, also just filed, his legal defense team agrees that nothing in his case changes with Sessions' departure and Whitaker's appointment.

In a joint release announcing the move, the senators said they are being represented in the case by the nonprofit law firms Protect Democracy and the Constitutional Accountability Center.