Opinion | Matthew Whitaker and the Corruption of Justice – The New York Times

“By forcing out Attorney General Jeff Sessions and appointing Mr. Sessions’s chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker, as acting attorney general to take over the Justice Department — and, not incidentally, the investigation by the special counsel, Robert Mueller — President Trump has set off a storm of legal questions.

Does the appointment of Mr. Whitaker comport with the Appointments Clause of the Constitution or the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998? Doesn’t the law give control of the department to Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who appointed Mr. Mueller and oversaw the investigation because Mr. Sessions had recused himself?

To add to the academic discussion, the Justice Department’s own Office of Legal Counsel, which weighs in on major legal questions, gave its imprimatur to Mr. Trump’s decision on Wednesday. Now the state of Maryland and at least one criminal defendant are challenging the legality of Mr. Whitaker’s appointment in hopes that a federal judge will declare it invalid.

But all of this debate, hairsplitting and litigation distracts from a more persistent question: Is it O.K. for a president to shut down an investigation of himself? To answer that question yes is to take the position that not only this president, but any president in the future, is free to take the law into his own hands.”

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Opinion | Trump’s Appointment of the Acting Attorney General Is Unconstitutional -By Neal K. Katyal and George T. Conway III – The New York Times

By Neal K. Katyal and George T. Conway III
Mr. Katyal and Mr. Conway are lawyers.

Nov. 8, 2018, 34
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Matthew Whitaker, named acting attorney general on Wednesday after the forced resignation of Jeff Sessions, was Mr. Sessions’s chief of staff.CreditCreditCharlie Neibergall/Associated Press

“What now seems an eternity ago, the conservative law professor Steven Calabresi published an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal in May arguing that Robert Mueller’s appointment as special counsel was unconstitutional. His article got a lot of attention, and it wasn’t long before President Trump picked up the argument, tweeting that “the Appointment of the Special Counsel is totally UNCONSTITUTIONAL!”

Professor Calabresi’s article was based on the Appointments Clause of the Constitution, Article II, Section 2, Clause 2. Under that provision, so-called principal officers of the United States must be nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate under its “Advice and Consent” powers.

He argued that Mr. Mueller was a principal officer because he is exercising significant law enforcement authority and that since he has not been confirmed by the Senate, his appointment was unconstitutional. As one of us argued at the time, he was wrong. What makes an officer a principal officer is that he or she reports only to the president. No one else in government is that person’s boss. But Mr. Mueller reports to Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general. So, Mr. Mueller is what is known as an inferior officer, not a principal one, and his appointment without Senate approval was valid.

But Professor Calabresi and the president were right about the core principle. A principal officer must be confirmed by the Senate. And that has a very, very significant consequence today.”