Mere weeks after The New York Times revealed the Department of Justice's intentions to legally define gender as "biologically male or female" in an attempt to exclude transgender, intersex, and gender non-conforming people from legal protections, President Donald Trump has ordered former Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign. Matthew G. Whitaker, Trump's pick for acting attorney general and Sessions' chief of staff since late 2017, is reportedly set to be sworn in tonight.
Whitaker's appointment is being hailed as the president's next move to eliminate Mueller as a threat.
The acting attorney general told CNN in July 2017 that Mueller's investigation could be de-funded into submission, circumventing the need to dismiss the special counsel. He also authored an op-ed for CNN in August 2017 in which he states his clear opinion on the Mueller probe being "completely outside of the realm of [Trump's] 2016 campaign and allegations that the campaign coordinated with the Russian government or anyone else."
“I could see a scenario where Jeff Sessions is replaced with a recess appointment and that attorney general does not fire Bob Mueller, but he just reduces his budget to so low that his investigation grinds to almost a halt,” Whitaker told CNN.
Even Sessions' most vocal critics have spoken up against the move to dismiss him, citing the disregard for rule of law so emblematic of the Trump administration's tenure.
"Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been no friend to human rights, including over criminal justice and immigration policies," says Nicole Austin-Hillery, US direcotr for the Human Rights Watch. "But President Trump’s decision to request Sessions’ resignation raises serious concerns about his commitment to the rule of law in the United States. From fanning racial discord and demonizing immigrants to his no-holds-barred attacks on officials who disagree with him, Trump has shown little respect for the checks and balances that allow freedom and rights to flourish."
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called for Whitaker's recusal from overseeing Mueller's investigation.
“Given his previous comments advocating defunding and imposing limitations on the Mueller investigation, Mr. Whitaker should recuse himself from its oversight for the duration of his time as acting attorney general,” Schumer said in a statement.
Senator Dianne Feinstein weighed in on Twitter moments after Sessions' announcement went public.
The president has made abundantly clear that he’ll take any action he can to undermine the Mueller investigation. No one who lacks Senate confirmation should be placed in charge of this investigation, especially Matthew Whitaker who publicly criticized Mueller’s work last year. pic.twitter.com/lXsCm5P3UA
— Sen Dianne Feinstein (@SenFeinstein) November 7, 2018
Whitaker is a former US attorney who directed the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT — gag), a conservative ethics watchdog group funded by a group of particularly shady conservatives bent on damaging Hillary Clinton's image during the 2016 presidential race. Read more about "FACT" here.