“Who are you? Where did you come from? And how the heck did you become the head of the Department of Justice? Hopefully you can help me work through this confusion,” Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York said to former Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker during a 2019 House Judiciary Committee hearing on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Before Whitaker could even get a reply in, Jeffries informed him it “was a statement, not a question. I assume you know the difference.”
Welcome to Washington.
Though Whitaker was only in the position a little over three months, he proved to be more than capable of handling not just the invective Democrats and the mainstream media would hurl at him (including questioning the legitimacy of his appointment), but also facing the Department of Justice's challenges head on—from the Russia investigation to the nonstop leaks to reining in bureaucratic elites who sought only to pursue partisan interests.
But even for a temporary position, President Trump, himself a fighter, chose in Whitaker someone who also wasn’t afraid to get into the ring. (In that same hearing, Whitaker gave it right back to Democrats with mic-drop moments of his own.)
Whitaker wasn’t entirely new to Washington when he took on the role on Nov. 7, 2018; he had served as former Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s chief of staff since Sept. 2017. Nevertheless, as man of faith and Midwesterner at heart, basic beliefs he had about rules of fairness among those in power were soon shattered, and he learned how toxic the culture at the DOJ had become under people who sought to undercut President Trump and the rule of law at every turn.
In his newly released book, “Above the Law: The Inside Story of How the Justice Department Tried to Subvert President Trump,” Whitaker gives an account of his experience, which also serves as a historical record of the events that transpired in that turbulent time when top figures at the DOJ worked against President Trump, aided in part by deep state allies and the mainstream media, to push the debunked Russian collusion narrative.
“I think that there were several, especially at the top of the FBI, that bent the rules, or even worse than that—may have violated the law,” Whitaker told Townhall. “We'll find out ultimately with the [U.S. Attorney John] Durham investigation,” which is looking into the origins of the Russia probe.
In his book, Whitaker calls for “new blood in [America’s] governing institutions” so that rules and the law are followed, investigations are properly predicated, and justice is served.
Whitaker pointed to the investigation of Gen. Michael Flynn as a prime example.
“Attorney General Barr said that it was not properly predicated, that the investigation shouldn’t have been launched at Flynn as a target, and he shouldn’t have been interviewed, and all the other rules, including sending folks over to the White House,” Whitaker explained.
“It’s shameful what they did to General Flynn,” the former acting attorney general continued.
But Sessions, Whitaker, and now Barr all helped steer the DOJ out of the above-the-law culture created under Obama’s AG, Eric Holder. It was during Holder’s tenure, Whitaker writes, that “senior officials began to flout the rules and were not held accountable if it served the ends of the administration. Leaking to the media became rampant. Politics seeped into everything.”
Many bad actors have since been rooted out—former FBI Director James Comey, former Deputy Director of the FBI Andy McCabe, former FBI agent Peter Strzok, and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, to name a few. And Whitaker is hopeful that the Durham investigation will bring accountability to the American people.
“I think the other thing that needs to be explained is how at each step, instead of saying, we've interviewed, for example, George Papadopoulos and haven't found any evidence of a relationship between the campaign and the Russian government. You know, every step that they couldn't find evidence and there was really no reason to proceed with an investigation, they continued to proceed with the investigation,” he said.
In the end, the American people went through a “two-plus year nightmare that costs millions of dollars,” he added.
For these reasons, Whitaker sounds the alarm in his book about how the special counsel undermines the Constitution and why the regulation ought to be reformed.
“I think they have to look at this how this was used to essentially carve out of the Department Justice a prosecution that was too broad, too long, too expensive, and ultimately, failed at its primary function,” Whitaker said. “A special prosecutor … essentially has to prove their case to justify their existence.”
A central theme of the book is to ensure that what happened to President Trump, Flynn, and Carter Page never happens to any U.S. citizen again.
“We need good people with various backgrounds that are willing to truly be public servants and do things the right way for the right reasons,” he said. “I feel so strongly about the concept of a citizen servant where people come to Washington, D.C., they serve their country in whatever capacity, and then they go back…”
Perhaps then there would be more public servants like Whitaker—a "nobody" from Iowa, as Jeffries so arrogantly claimed, but one who helped bring power back to the American people by allowing justice to triumph again.
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