Three Democratic senators launched a new legal challenge on Monday to President Donald Trump's naming of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general, accusing Trump of depriving the U.S. Senate of its constitutional power to act on such appointments.
Sens. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii filed the suit in US District Court on Monday, represented by the public interest groups Protect Democracy and the Constitutional Accountability Center. "Americans prize a system of checks and balances, which President Trump's dictatorial appointment betrays".
Congressional Democrats have expressed concern that Whitaker, a Trump loyalist, could undermine or even fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, whose investigation of Russia's role in the 2016 USA election has cast a cloud over Trump's presidency. Check back for updates.
Now that Sessions no longer holds the position, the state contends that the unlawful acting Attorney General has no authority to respond to the lawsuit.
"The stakes are too high to allow the president to install an unconfirmed lackey to lead the Department of Justice - a lackey whose stated goal, apparently, is undermining a major investigation into the president", Whitehouse said in a statement.
On November 7, President Trump appointed Whitaker to oversee the Department of Justice - including the Special Counsel's investigation - in violation of the Constitution's Appointments Clause.
Trump dismissed concerns about how Whitaker will deal with the Mueller investigation, but said that he, as president, would not intervene.More news: Dr. Miriam Adelson one of seven to receive Presidential Medal of Freedom
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The senators' lawsuit said Trump violated the so-called Appointments Clause of the U.S. Constitution because the job of attorney general is a "principal officer" who must be appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. His appointment leap-frogged Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, which also gave Whitaker control over the Mueller investigation that had previously been supervised by Rosenstein.
The memo had said the attorney general was a principal officer requiring Senate confirmation, but someone who temporarily performs the attorney general's duties is not.
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.
The complaint asks a judge to declare the appointment unconstitutional and to prevent him from serving as head of the Justice Department. "To suggest otherwise is to ignore centuries of practice and precedent". He's a very smart person.
On Nov. 13, Texas businessman Doug Haning filed a motion to dismiss the indictment against him on the ground that Whitaker was wrongly appointed, Politico reported on Nov. 15. "And I would certainly call on my colleagues right now to avoid the constitutional crisis, take action now, speak out against this appointment".
Trump has answered written questions from Mueller about his campaign's connections with Russian Federation during the run-up to the November 2016 voting, but told Wallace he "probably" won't sit for an in-person interview with Mueller's investigators.