Democrat Senators FILE LAWSUIT to Block Trump's Pick to Lead DOJ

Sens. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii filed the suit in US District Court on Monday, represented by the public interest groups Protect Democracy and the Constitutional Accountability Center. They argued that an official who had not been Senate-confirmed could not run the Justice Department, even temporarily. "The reason is simple: Whitaker would never pass the advice and consent test.In selecting a so-called "constitutional nobody" and thwarting every senator's constitutional duty, Trump leaves us no choice but to seek recourse through the courts".

Sessions had recused himself from overseeing the Russian Federation probe, handing the responsibility to Deputy Attorney general Rod Rosenstein. Whitaker has been an outspoken critic of that investigation. Four expected committee chairmen sent letters to Whitaker and others asking for information about Whitaker's involvement in a company shuttered by the Federal Trade Commission, declaring they plan to investigate the matter next year. Whitaker in the past criticized the scope of Mueller's probe and brought up the possibility of undermining it by slashing the special counsel's funding. "He's going to do what's right", the president said.

"The Court should now resolve the issues properly presented and leave any new legal claims that Miller might make for further proceedings below", Mueller concluded.

"Installing Matthew Whitaker so flagrantly defies constitutional law that any viewer of School House Rock would recognize it", the Democrat senators said in a statement. They maintained that the lawmakers had legal standing because their constitutional authority to cast confirmation votes for senior government officials had been nullified.

The case was assigned to Judge Trevor N. McFadden, a Trump appointee.

The Justice Department legal team, led by longtime federal lawyers now working for Mueller, says Mueller was properly appointed last May by then-acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and continues to work at the discretion of Justice Department leadership.

Normally Rosenstein, who has gone through Senate confirmation, would have been made acting attorney general until a new nominee could be vetted.

In a statement Monday, Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said it was based on "centuries of practice and precedent" and "comports with... actions of U.S. presidents, both Republican and Democrat". The designation is consistent with an opinion the department issued in 2003 and with "two centuries of practice". Whitaker took over supervision of Mueller's investigation from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein when Trump appointed him on November 7 as acting attorney general to replace Jeff Sessions, who the president ousted. There was such an acting attorney general in 1866 for several days, but that was before Congress had created a Justice Department for that official to supervise.

"I think it's quite possible there could be a lot of challenges to his appointment", Vladeck said.

"In modern times, this kind of appointment is unprecedented, certainly for an office of this importance", he said.

  • Jon Douglas