Perhaps feeling the walls closing in on him, President Donald Trump already has lashed out at his woefully unqualified acting attorney general, Matt Whitaker, over cases brought by federal prosecutors against the president’s former fixer, Michael Cohen.
According to CNN, Trump “vented” to Whitaker twice in the past few weeks about Cohen’s guilty plea of lying to Congress about a proposed Trump Tower in Moscow, and about prosecutors accusing the president of being involved in campaign finance violations by paying off porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal to cover up extramarital affairs.
The CNN report, based on “multiple sources familiar with the matter,” goes out of its way to stress that there is no indication Trump tried to force Whitaker to shut down ongoing federal investigations prompted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. Instead, it describes the president as “frustrated” at a situation he felt was “unfair.”
Trump appointed Whitaker to replace former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who resigned in early November. Asked a week later about Whitaker in an interview, Trump immediately began criticizing the Mueller probe, calling it “an illegal investigation.”
“Pointing to articles he said supported his position, Trump pressed Whitaker on why more wasn’t being done to control prosecutors in New York who brought the charges in the first place, suggesting they were going rogue,” CNN reported, referring to Cohen’s hush money case.
Unlike Sessions, Whitaker has refused to recuse himself from overseeing the Mueller probe, despite advice from a Justice Department ethics official that he should. Additionally, CNN reported that Trump’s nominee to permanently replace Sessions, Bill Barr, wrote a memo in June to Justice Department officials arguing that the president’s firing in May 2017 of former FBI Director James Comey did not obstruct justice, as Trump’s critics allege.
The latest report on Trump’s interactions with Whitaker underscores “the extent to which the President firmly believes the attorney general of the United States should serve as his personal protector,” CNN reported.
According to MSNBC, Mueller could issue a confidential report on some of his team’s findings as early as February. That report would be sent directly to Whitaker.