Conway Calls Whitaker Appointment Illegal As Pelosi Calls For Emergency Meeting
Lawyers George Conway and Neal Katyal wrote a New York Times op-ed on Thursday in which they branded Donald Trump’s replacement of Attorney General Jeff Sessions with Matthew Whitaker as “illegal”.
The pair cited the Appointment Clause in the US Constitution which requires “principal officers” of government bodies to be confirmed by the Senate. Whitaker, who was Sessions’ Chief of Staff, was not Senate-confirmed.
“It is illegal”, the pair wrote, adding, “it means that anything Mr. Whitaker does, or tries to do, in that position is invalid”.
George Conway’s status as White House Staffer Kelly Ann Conway’s husband makes the condemnation all the more scathing for the Trump administration.
The high-profile lawyers are not the only voices to question the legality of Trump’s appointment.
Marty Lederman, a law professor at Georgetown, was also dubious of the move’s legality. Writing in Just Security, Lederman cited Judge Clarence Thomas’ recent argument for rejecting Barack Obama’s appointment of Lafe Solomon as general counsel to the National Labor Relations Board on the grounds that he was not Senate-confirmed.
Whitaker’s appointment also has Democrats concerned. Politico reported that Nancy Pelosi arranged an emergency conference call with Democratic incumbents and newly-elected members of the House on Thursday afternoon.
The call will feature briefings from the chairmen of the Oversight Committee, House Intelligence Committee, House Homeland Security Committee, and the Incoming House Judiciary Committee.
According to professor Lederman, Whitaker’s appointment “would be the first time in U.S. history” that the President has appointed an Attorney General that was not Senate-confirmed. As such, there is no precedent for the case.
As a result, it could take several months before a court would adjudicate on Whitaker’s appointment. Even if the matter does go to court there is no guarantee a challenge to the appointment would be successful. In the meantime, Whitaker would have free reign to wreak havoc on the Department of Justice and Robert Mueller’s investigation.