Senate

Dem senator requests hearing on whether Whitaker violated Hatch Act

Greg Nash

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) is requesting that the Senate Judiciary Committee hold a hearing on acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker’s “conflicts of interest,” including if he violated a federal law on political activities. 

Blumenthal sent a letter on Monday to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, asking him to schedule an oversight hearing so Whitaker could testify under oath about potential Hatch Act violations and his previous criticism of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe. 
 
{mosads}The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees in the executive branch from taking part in certain political activities.
 
“Our committee performs a critical oversight role over the Department of Justice. We are entitled to know whether the man leading it has conflicts of interest that impact his ability to do his job as the chief law enforcement officer of the United States with impartiality,” Blumenthal wrote in the letter. 
 
Democrats have widely panned Whitaker’s appointment as acting attorney general, arguing it is a sign that Trump is paving the way to interfere in Mueller’s investigation.
 
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, sent Grassley a letter earlier this month requesting a hearing with Whitaker, who was previously former Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s chief of staff. Grassley has brushed off calls for a hearing. 
 
Blumenthal, in his letter Monday, argued that “troubling revelations” about Whitaker have surfaced since his appointment as acting attorney general that demand a congressional hearing. 
 
Blumenthal pointed to Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings that show Whitaker received donations to his failed 2014 Senate campaign while he was serving as Sessions’s chief of staff. The Office of Special Counsel told CNN last week that it was investigating whether Whitaker violated the Hatch Act. 
 
“These payments at the very least call into question Mr. Whitaker’s impartiality as the chief law enforcement officer of the United States,” Blumenthal added. 
 
Blumenthal is part of a group of Senate Democrats who are challenging the appointment in court, arguing Trump violated the appointments clause. 
 
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) asked for an investigation last week about talks Whitaker had with the White House about the Mueller investigation and Russia while Whitaker was serving as chief of staff to Sessions. Blumenthal on Monday warned that if Whitaker shared “confidential information” with the White House about “ongoing criminal investigations,” that would violate Justice Department guidelines. 
 
“If the Senate Judiciary Committee held confirmation hearings concerning Mr. Whitaker’s nomination, these are exactly the kinds of questions we would have an opportunity to ask him publicly, on the record, under oath,” Blumenthal added. 
Tags Charles Schumer Chuck Grassley Dianne Feinstein Jeff Sessions Matthew Whitaker lawsuit Robert Mueller Senate hearing Senate Judiciary Committee special counsel Robert Mueller investigation
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