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Grassley rejects calls to probe Whitaker appointment at DOJ

November 15, 2018 GMT

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley brushed aside demands to hold a hearing on the ouster of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the designation of Matthew Whitaker as his acting replacement, saying Thursday that the law appears to have been followed.

Mr. Grassley also said it was “ironic” that Democrats are now intent on defending Mr. Sessions, who they excoriated for the nearly two years he was in office.

The Iowa Republican said he’s confident President Trump followed the Vacancies Reform Act in naming Mr. Whitaker, who was not in a Senate-confirmed position but who, according to the administration, was senior enough to be named acting attorney general.

“In other words, President Trump acted in strict conformance with the law, and acting Attorney General Whitaker’s appointment is perfectly legal,” Mr. Grassley said. “I have confidence that acting Attorney General Whitaker will carry out the functions of the Justice Department to the best of his abilities.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the committee, who had asked for a hearing, was less certain of Mr. Whitaker’s legal standing.

She said Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein should be acting attorney general instead.

“The American people ought to be able to have faith that the person serving as attorney general even in an acting capacity will enforce the law in an impartial and even handed manner,” she said.

Democrats fear Mr. Whitaker would undermine the ongoing probe by special counsel Robert Mueller into the 2016 election, Russian meddling and Trump campaign figures’ behavior.