President Donald Trump is “entitled” to have a “full-time attorney general” who has his complete “confidence” at the helm of the Department of Justice (DOJ), former U.S. Attorney Joseph diGenova said Wednesday night on Fox News’ “The Ingraham Angle” just hours after Trump accepted former Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ resignation.
“At your request, I am submitting my resignation,” Sessions wrote to Trump in his resignation letter.
Sessions stunned Trump in March 2017 — just one month after being sworn in — when he succumbed to pressure and recused himself from overseeing the probe into allegations of Russian collusion between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein ultimately appointed special counsel Robert Mueller to direct the probe in May 2017 after Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey.
The relationship between the president and his now-former attorney general has been strained ever since.
Sessions, who became the first sitting senator to endorse Trump’s presidential bid during the contentious GOP primary, deeply wounded Trump by recusing himself. The president repeatedly criticized Sessions verbally and on Twitter after the recusal and the relationship soured beyond repair. Many viewed it as a mere matter of time before Trump fired Sessions.
Matthew G. Whitaker, who served as Sessions’ chief of staff at the DOJ, became acting attorney general until Trump nominates another person.
Trump tweeted on Wednesday, “We are pleased to announce that Matthew G. Whitaker, Chief of Staff to Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the Department of Justice, will become our new Acting Attorney General of the United States. He will serve our Country well … We thank Attorney General Jeff Sessions for his service, and wish him well! A permanent replacement will be nominated at a later date.”
We are pleased to announce that Matthew G. Whitaker, Chief of Staff to Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the Department of Justice, will become our new Acting Attorney General of the United States. He will serve our Country well….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 7, 2018
….We thank Attorney General Jeff Sessions for his service, and wish him well! A permanent replacement will be nominated at a later date.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 7, 2018
Whitaker said in a statement on Wednesday evening, “It is a true honor that the president has confidence in my ability to lead the Department of Justice as acting attorney general.”
“I am committed to leading a fair department with the highest ethical standards, that upholds the rule of law, and seeks justice for all Americans,” Whitaker added.
Fox News host Laura Ingraham suggested that Trump nominate someone like former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), to replace Sessions. Christie worked as a prosecutor earlier in his career.
“[Christie] has about an 18-year personal relationship with the president. They get along. They know each other. He has already walked through the media fire. He knows what it’s like to be in the bright white spotlight of the New York media and frankly the national media,” Ingraham said.
“I think temperamentally he and Trump are similar. They get along as people. They have kind of a similar style. I don’t think that’s a detriment in this job whatsoever. He was known as a tough-as-nails prosecutor, very well-respected by career prosecutors at DOJ,” Ingraham added.
DiGenova agreed, saying, “Chris Christie would be fine. He’s experienced. He’s smart. He’s intelligent. He would have the full confidence of the president of the United States, which is to me what was missing from the relationship with Jeff Sessions.”
“The president is entitled to have a full-time attorney general, and Christie could fulfill that role very nicely,” diGenova added. “And with Robert Mueller spending more than $38 million to produce absolutely nothing by way of Russian collusion, Christie would be the perfect overseer of that monstrosity.”
In the meantime, Democrats and mainstream media members have already gone after the acting attorney general. Some liberal lawmakers insisted Whitaker recuse himself from overseeing the Mueller probe immediately because of past comments he made about the probe.
In particular, Democratic lawmakers were upset with an op-ed for CNN that Whitaker wrote 2017 in which he argued that “any investigation into President Trump’s finances or the finances of his family would require Mueller to return to Rod Rosenstein for additional authority under Mueller’s appointment as special counsel.”
“If he were to continue to investigate the financial relationships without a broadened scope in his appointment, then this would raise serious concerns that the special counsel’s investigation was a mere witch hunt,” Whitaker had written.
But former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy insisted on “The Ingraham Angle” on Wednesday night that there were “no” grounds for Whitaker to recuse himself.
“No, Laura. I looked very carefully at what he said when he was at CNN … He didn’t say anything that was in the nature of [being] recusable commentary,” McCarthy said. “He didn’t make any prejudgments about the investigation. He didn’t say anything to denigrate what Mueller is up to.”
Former Acting Attorney General George J. Terwilliger III, who served in the administration of George H.W. Bush, also insisted there was “no” need for recusal.
“If every time a lawyer made comments about some matter off public interest and then got involved and would have to accuse himself, poor Joe [diGenova], for example, wouldn’t be able to practice law,” Terwilliger quipped.
“The Democrats are doing what they always do — when they don’t have anything else, they just start screaming and yelling. This is an embarrassment to them, but it’s going to continue. And Mr. Whitaker is going to be just fine,” diGenova said.
“The fact of the matter is that this was a different time, a different set of facts, and I’m sure Matt will make his decisions in this case based on whatever circumstances he becomes aware of,” Terwilliger added.
DiGenova also agreed, saying, “Those previous comments are not recusable comments. Mr. Whitaker’s a fine person. He is completely independent. He knows about the administration of this particular case.”
“The Democrats are doing what they always do — when they don’t have anything else, they just start screaming and yelling. This is an embarrassment to them, but it’s going to continue. And Mr. Whitaker is going to be just fine,” diGenova added.