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Keeping track of the various outrages to emanate from the Trump administration is a bit like using a thimble to scoop water out of the ocean — you can never keep up (mind you, in this analogy the ocean is actually a fetid stew of toxic waste).

But here’s one that deserves a bit more attention. Twenty-five days ago, Matthew Whitaker was made acting attorney general — and he still has the job.

In the three weeks since President Trump fired Jeff Sessions and gave the job to Whitaker, his chief of staff, there’s been little indication that the White House is close to nominating someone for the position. That means Whitaker’s tenure is likely to last into 2019.


This is a problem for a variety of reasons, but two obvious ones come to mind: Whitaker is manifestly unqualified to be the nation’s top law enforcement official and, from all appearances, he has the job, in part, to help impede special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Here are just a few things we’ve learned about Whitaker. Before becoming chief of staff to Sessions, Whitaker had several jobs. He served on the advisory board of a company called World Patent Marketing, which scammed inventors out of more than $26 million and was eventually shut down by the FTC. The company had a reputation for threatening disgruntled investors — an activity that Whitaker allegedly participated in.

Later he worked for a conservative nonprofit organization called the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust , which described itself as a watchdog group focused on exposing public corruption and unethical behavior. The nonprofit had no employees, its funding sources remain a mystery . . . and yet it compensated Whitaker more than $1.2 million over a three-year period.


While Whitaker also briefly served as a US attorney in Iowa and had a small law practice, this is not the normal resume of an individual tasked with being the attorney general of the United States.

But, what is perhaps of greatest interest in Whitaker’s background is his previous vocation as a paid talking head. In that role, and as an occasional opinion writer, he, among other things:

• Applauded the firing of Jim Comey.

• Proclaimed that there was “no criminal obstruction of justice charge to be had” against the president.

• Claimed there was no collusion with Russia and the Trump campaign.

• Stated that an investigation by Mueller into Trump’s finances would be going “too far.”

• Urged Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to “limit the scope” of Robert Mueller’s investigation.

• Said before the 2016 election that if Trump was elected president, Hillary Clinton should be prosecuted, even, if necessary, under the Espionage Act.

And there’s another tidbit, one that is actually more disturbing than this entire list above. According to a report earlier this month by Murray Waas in Vox, while chief of staff Whitaker “privately provided advice to the president . . . on how the White House might be able to pressure the Justice Department to investigate the president’s political adversaries.” I’m no legal expert, but if that isn’t an abuse of presidential power — one in which Whitaker actively participated — then those words have no meaning.


In the most charitable possible interpretation, Trump didn’t appoint Whitaker to run the Department of Justice as part of a blatant effort to further obstruct justice. Again, this is the charitable interpretation. The obvious one is that of course this is why he appointed Whitaker.

But whatever the actual reason, Whitaker has more conflicts of interest in regard to the Mueller investigation than you can shake a stick at. This is not even to mention the fact that his appointment to become attorney general is quite possibly unconstitutional (as a federal law suit alleges).

Whitaker is, from all appearances, a political hack. Besides being unqualified for the job he holds — both because of his legal background and his political activities — he may have conspired with the president to obstruct justice and use the Justice Department to go after Trump’s political enemies.

I’ve written here many times that Trump is waging a daily assault on the rule of law in America. But make no mistake: Every day that Whitaker holds the job, the rule of law isn’t under assault, it’s dead.

Michael A. Cohen’s column appears regularly in the Globe. Follow him on Twitter @speechboy71.