By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) – A trio of Democratic senators Monday sued U.S. President Donald Trump over his appointment of Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker.
The complaint filed by Richard Blumenthal, Sheldon Whitehouse and Mazie Hirono, asks a federal judge to remove Whitaker from the post Trump appointed him to earlier this month following the ouster of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
At issue in the suit is the fact that Whitaker was chosen for a Cabinet-level post despite never receiving Senate confirmation before. The senators argue that is a violation of the Appointments Clause of the Constitution.
The senators, who all serve on the Judiciary Committee, said in a joint statement they are being represented by two non-profit law firms in the legal action. Both Trump and Whitaker are listed as defendants.
Trump removed Sessions Nov. 7 following more than a year of friction between the two for Sessions' decision to recuse himself from matters related to the ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible Trump campaign collusion with the effort.
Trump blamed the decision for the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, another focus of the president's public chastisement.
Whitaker previously served as Sessions' chief of staff, and has been a vocal critic of Mueller's investigation fueling speculation Trump appointed him as foil to the probe.
As head of the Justice Department Whitaker would oversee Mueller's investigation, rekindling bipartisan calls for legislation to protect the special counsel from political interference.
"Americans prize a system of checks and balances, which President Trump’s dictatorial appointment betrays,” Blumenthal said. “President Trump is denying Senators our constitutional obligation and opportunity to do our job: scrutinizing the nomination of our nation’s top law enforcement official. The reason is simple: Whitaker would never pass the advice and consent test."
Trump has claimed he did not know of Whitaker's criticism of the special counsel prior to appointing him, insisting Whitaker's handling of the investigation is "going to be up to him".
"He's going to do what's right. I really believe he's going to do what's right," Trump said during a weekend interview with Fox News.
Hirono, however, was unswayed, insisting that the Appointments Clause stipulates "without exception for President Trump’s allies, principal officers who report directly to the President must be subject to a hearing and confirmed by the Senate."