GOP Sen. Kennedy leery of Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker’s comments about judiciary

In the face of criticism raised against President Donald Trump’s pick to fill the seat of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Republican Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana advocated patience with Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker, given that he is a short-term appointment. After firing Sessions last week, Mr. Trump ignored the line of succession at the Justice Department and appointed Whitaker, who was a former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa, a cable news pundit, and a vocal critic of the Special Counsel’s investigation into Russian interference in U.S. elections.

Whitaker, who has not been confirmed by the Senate, has taken the position amid criticism of his qualifications, his impartiality, and his resume, including his role in a Florida patent company that was fined nearly $26 million for defrauding customers.

Sen. John Kennedy, R-La.

“CBS This Morning” co-host John Dickerson asked Kennedy, “What is your view about the fact that [Whitaker] is not a Senate-confirmed person?”

“I think he will be there for a short while,” Kennedy replied. “I think the president will very shortly announce a permanent nominee. In the interim, I think everybody, including my Democratic friends, ought to give him the chance to find the men’s room before they try to beat him half to death.”

Dickerson asked Kennedy about Whitaker’s past statements regarding Marbury v. Madison, an 1803 pillar of jurisprudence establishing the principle that the judiciary has power to declare acts by the other two branches of government unconstitutional. Whitaker said he thought the case had been “incorrectly interpreted,” and that he believes the judiciary does not have a co-equal role in the American system.

“Well, I don’t agree with him on that one,” Kennedy said. “I would advise him to hit that case a second lick, because that’s not quite what it says.”

“He also said, ‘The courts are supposed to be the inferior branch of the three branches of government.'”

“I don’t agree with that, either,” said Kennedy.

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There have also been calls for Congress to pass legislation protecting special counsel Robert Mueller from being fired before he can complete his investigation into the ties between President Trump’s campaign and administration and Russia, and into charges of obstruction of justice in the firing of former FBI Director James Comey.

Whitaker (who now oversees the Mueller probe) has been openly hostile towards the investigation, calling it a “witch hunt” and advocating that Mueller be defunded or fired.

Dickerson asked, “Do you think there should be legislation to protect Mueller?”

“I don’t think it’s constitutional,” Kennedy replied. “I don’t think Congress can tell the president who he can fire and can’t fire.”

Watch for more of John Dickerson’s interview with Sen. John Kennedy next week on “CBS This Morning.” 

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