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Whitaker backlash prompts concern at the White House

There is a growing sense of concern inside the White House over the negative reaction to Matthew Whitaker be...

Posted: Nov 9, 2018 8:59 AM
Updated: Nov 9, 2018 8:59 AM

There is a growing sense of concern inside the White House over the negative reaction to Matthew Whitaker being tapped as acting attorney general after Jeff Sessions' abrupt firing.

Whitaker, who was Sessions' chief of staff, has faced criticism since Wednesday afternoon's announcement for his previous comments on special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

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Several senior officials told CNN they were surprised by the criticism, and believe it could potentially jeopardize Whitaker's chances of remaining in the post if it continues to dominate headlines.

Whitaker is expected to take over oversight of Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether Trump campaign associates colluded with Russia. He has given no indication he believes he needs to step aside from overseeing the probe, according to one person familiar with his thinking, a belief echoed by White House officials. And a source close to the President told CNN that the idea of Whitaker ending or suppressing the Russia probe is not an option as of now.

But Whitaker has previously expressed deep skepticism about the probe, including arguing in a 2017 CNN op-ed that Mueller was "dangerously close to crossing" a red line following reports that the special counsel was looking into Trump's finances and calling Mueller's appointment "ridiculous" and "a little fishy" in a 2017 appearance on the "Rose Unplugged" radio program.

Whitaker also spoke about the investigation in numerous other radio and television appearances, including CNN, where he was a legal commentator.

It was not widely known among White House staff that he'd commented repeatedly on the special counsel's investigation in interviews and on television -- which is ironic given that this is what drew President Donald Trump to him and raises continued questions over the depth of the administration's vetting process.

Sam Clovis, a 2016 Trump campaign national chairman who has close ties to Whitaker, encouraged him to get a regular commentary gig on cable television to get Trump's attention, according to friends Whitaker told at the time. Whitaker was hired as a CNN legal commentator last year for several months before leaving the role in September 2017 to head to the Justice Department.

Along with the breadth of his previous comments on the investigation, there have been questions about the legality of Whitaker's appointment.

George Conway, the husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, co-authored a New York Times op-ed published Thursday that called the appointment "unconstitutional."

The Appointments Clause of the Constitution, Article II, Section 2, Clause 2, Conway wrote, "means Mr. Trump's installation of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general of the United States after forcing the resignation of Jeff Sessions is unconstitutional. It's illegal. And it means that anything Mr. Whitaker does, or tries to do, in that position is invalid."

Whitaker's standing ultimately depends on the President. But continued negative coverage will get Trump's attention.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

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CountyConfirmedDeaths
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Madison122234
Jones106949
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Lauderdale88278
Rankin84112
Forrest81442
Scott75015
Harrison7448
Copiah56615
Leake54819
Jackson53316
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Wayne52112
Washington4969
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Oktibbeha48624
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Lowndes45311
Warren44317
Lincoln43534
Lamar4197
Grenada3805
Monroe36729
Pike36712
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Lafayette3524
Newton3289
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Covington3025
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Panola2706
Adams26718
Chickasaw25918
Tate2577
Jasper2506
Marion24811
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Clay24210
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Simpson2303
Smith20611
Clarke20124
Marshall2013
Coahoma1866
Kemper17614
Union1759
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Carroll16011
Lawrence1591
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Calhoun1244
Humphreys1239
Tippah12311
Webster12310
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Hancock12013
Jefferson Davis1064
Tallahatchie1043
Prentiss983
Greene927
Jefferson923
Wilkinson919
Tunica893
Amite822
George743
Choctaw714
Quitman680
Tishomingo681
Perry614
Alcorn561
Stone521
Franklin382
Benton270
Sharkey240
Issaquena71
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 39604

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CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson4387142
Montgomery383999
Mobile3697134
Tuscaloosa204938
Marshall153710
Lee118937
Shelby108223
Madison10577
Morgan9813
Walker86723
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Butler60427
DeKalb6025
Chambers58127
Tallapoosa56369
Autauga54511
Unassigned52025
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Lowndes45820
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Houston4344
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Pike3995
Colbert3685
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Coffee3532
Barbour3231
Covington3087
St. Clair3042
Hale29321
Marengo28611
Wilcox2808
Sumter27612
Calhoun2705
Talladega2677
Clarke2665
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Dale2440
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Winston2333
Blount2141
Chilton2112
Pickens2116
Marion20312
Monroe1972
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Randolph1709
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Henry1303
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