Attorney General nominee William Barr faced the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday, answering a barrage of questions in a calm and cool manner. Barr, President Trump’s choice to replace Jeff Sessions at the Department of Justice, said he supports letting Robert Mueller finish his investigation. Under intense grilling by Democrats, Barr also insisted he won’t be bullied into changing how he would do the job and said he will not recuse himself from the Russia probe.
The Supreme Court has passed on a case attempting to discredit Matthew Whitaker as acting Attorney General. Liberal lawyers had asked the high court to strip Whitaker’s name from a pending case, which would signal that the court believes he might be an illegal appointment, a case Dems have been trying to make ever since President Trump appointed Whitaker to replace former AG Jeff Sessions.
Three Senate Democrats are suing to oust acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker and replace him with deputy AG Rod Rosenstein. Sens. Richard Blumenthal, Sheldon Whitehouse and Mazie Hirono say President Trump went around the Constitution by appointing Whitaker to temporarily replace Jeff Sessions, who the president asked to resign. While Whitaker is just a temporary caretaker of the position, the Democrats see a great way to clog the pipes with a lawsuit while claiming Trump went around the Constitution’s “advise and consent” role for the Senate. Dems fear Whitaker will curtail the Robert Mueller investigation.
—QUOTABLE: “The U.S. Senate has not consented to Mr. Whitaker serving in any office within the federal government, let alone the highest office of the DOJ.” -The Three Dems
President Trump says acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker is right about criticisms of special counsel Robert Mueller. In a defense of Whitaker—his choice to replace ousted AG Jeff Sessions—on Fox News Sunday, Trump said he was unaware of Whitaker’s comments critical of Mueller before appointing him to be acting AG. While those comments, which came before Whitaker joined the Department of Justice, played no role in his appointment, he was right about them, Trump said.
—QUOTABLE: ”What do you do when a person’s right?…There is no collusion. He happened to be right. I mean, he said it. So if he said there is collusion, I’m supposed to be taking somebody that says there is? Because then I wouldn’t take him for two reasons, but the number one reason is the fact that he would have been wrong. If he said that there’s no collusion, he’s right.” -Trump on Fox News Sunday
A Department of Justice memo suggested that the appointment of Matthew Whitaker to temporarily replace Jeff Sessions as attorney general was appropriate. The memo from the Office of Legal Counsel reveals that the DOJ counseling President Trump on the Whitaker appointment and defends the president’s right to designate temporary office holders, per the 1998 Vacancies Reform Act. The Democrats have been trying to use that law to claim Whitaker is illegitimate—what they really want is to dispatch with Whitaker by any means possible, because before he joined the DOJ he was made comments critical of the Robert Mueller probe. Whitaker now has oversight of that probe.
—QUOTABLE: “This office has previously advised that the president could designate a senior Department of Justice official, such as Mr. Whitaker, as acting Attorney General, and this memorandum explains the basis for that conclusion.” -OLC memo
Maryland plans to sue President Trump’s administration over Trump’s appointment of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general. The president put the Mueller critic in place after forcing out Jeff Sessions, but the Maryland lawsuit asks a federal judge to undo that and declare Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein as the new acting AG. Democrats are furious that Whitaker has oversight over Robert Mueller’s probe because, prior to joining the Justice Department, he made comments that were critical of the investigation.
President Trump has fired his attorney general. Jeff Sessions, one of the first senators to endorse Trump’s presidential campaign, submitted a letter of resignation that indicates he was asked to quit. On Twitter, Trump announced that Sessions’ chief of staff Matthew Whitaker would assume his responsibilities. In the resignation letter, Sessions touted the number of violent offenders that were put away during his time in office.
—QUOTABLE: “I have been honored to serve as Attorney General and have worked to implement the law enforcement agenda based on the rule of law that formed a central part of your campaign for the Presidency.” -Sessions
The Pittsburgh synagogue shooter has been indicted on 44 separate counts after murdering 11 people in cold blood over the weekend. The charges include a number of hate crimes and run the gamut from obstruction of religious practices to the use of a firearm in the commission of a murder. They will likely result in life in prison or the death penalty—the Dept. of Justice believes a sentence of death is appropriate in this case. The 46 year old gunman entered the house of worship on Saturday and gunned down 11 people ranging in age up to 97 years old.
—QUOTABLE: “These alleged crimes are incomprehensibly evil and utterly repugnant to the values of this nation. Therefore this case is not only important to the victims and their loved ones, but to the city of Pittsburgh and the entire nation.” -Attorney General Jeff Sessions
Eleven are dead after a crazed anti-Semitic gunman opened fire Saturday at a Pittsburgh synagogue. 46 year old Robert Bowers was taken into custody after a final exchange of gun fire with police. He has been charged with 29 counts, including 11 counts of obstructing the exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death. Bowers, who has a long history of making anti-Semitic statements on social media, burst into the Tree of Life synagogue on Saturday morning, opening fire while screaming anti-Jewish rants. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Bowers could face the death penalty.
A former FBI agent has been sentenced for illegally leaking documents to the press. Terry James Albury, of Minnesota, was sentenced to four years in prison Thursday after he pled guilty to leaking secret documents that were published in The Intercept in early 2017 in a series called “The FBI’s Secret Rules.” He leaked the classified national defense information by taking photos of computer screens and copying the contents of classified documents into unclassified letterhead, then printing it. Abury is the second person to get jail time in the DOJ’s aggressive push to stamp out leaks.
—QUOTABLE: “We are conducting perhaps the most aggressive campaign against leaks in Department history…Today’s sentence should be a warning to every would-be leaker in the federal government that if they disclose classified information, they will pay a high price.” -AG Jeff Sessions
ICE is demanding that Portland’s sanctuary mayor relinquishes control of the police. Customs and Immigration Enforcement officers on Wednesday asked Mayor Ted Wheeler to give up his authority over the Portland, Oregon police and submit to an investigation of his handling of the summer’s violence “Occupy ICE” protests. The mayor broke state laws and violated Americans’ rights, ICE is saying. That’s according to the national union representing agents, which also asked AG Jeff Sessions and Oregon AG Ellen Rosenblum to open probes into the mayor, who over the summer allowed a violent mob to trash the city and threaten citizens in a fit of anger over federal immigration policies.
California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a tough new net neutrality law for the state on Sunday. Hours later, the Trump Justice Department sued to block it. The Trump administration is arguing that the law, which claims to bring “fairness” for all internet users, interferes with federal powers to set national communications standards. These net neutrality regulations—a similar one was imposed nationally under Obama and rescinded under Trump—aim to prevent major internet providers from slowing access to some websites while giving preferred speeds to others, usually depending on demand and contracts. You know, the free market.
—QUOTABLE: “The Justice Department should not have to spend valuable time and resources to file this suit today, but we have a duty to defend the prerogatives of the federal government and protect our constitutional order. We will do so with vigor.” -Attorney General Jeff Sessions.