Ex-White House counsel interviewed Whitaker about joining Trump's legal team: report

Former White House counsel Don McGahn interviewed Matthew Whitaker, who has since been named acting attorney general, about joining President TrumpDonald John TrumpJoint Chiefs chairman denies report that US is planning to keep 1K troops in Syria Kansas Department of Transportation calls Trump 'delusional communist' on Twitter Trump has privately voiced skepticism about driverless cars: report MORE's legal team last year, The New York Times reports.

McGahn, who left the White House last month, interviewed Whitaker in July 2017 about taking the position, according to the Times, which described Whitaker being interviewed to be "a legal attack dog" against special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE.

The White House ultimately did not hire Whitaker, a former U.S. attorney from Iowa, who then continued a media tour last year that included writing op-eds, including one for The Hill, criticizing Mueller's sprawling investigation as having gone too far.

Trump announced Whitaker as the acting attorney general this week after asking for and accepting Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsO'Rourke on impeachment: 2020 vote may be best way to 'resolve' Trump House Judiciary Dem, Republican clash over details of Whitaker testimony DeVos moves to allow religious groups to provide federally funded services to private schools MORE's resignation.

ADVERTISEMENT

The president had for over a year openly mocked Sessions and blasted his decision to recuse himself from the federal Russia probe being led by Mueller, which is examining ties between Trump's campaign and Russia during the 2016 election.

Legal experts have criticized Whitaker's appointment to lead the Justice Department, saying the position must be confirmed by the Senate. Lawmakers have also blasted Trump for installing a GOP loyalist to the position to oversee Mueller's probe.

"As an unconfirmed political appointee, Mr. Whitaker has not been subject to the scrutiny that the Constitution requires to ensure that he has the character, integrity and ability to fulfill the grave responsibilities of this job," Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) wrote Monday in a letter to Trump. 

Trump on Friday defended his choice of Whitaker to replace Sessions atop the Justice Department, while claiming that he didn't know him personally.

"I didn't speak to Matt WhitakerMatthew G WhitakerEx-federal prosecutor: 'Thank God' Whitaker is gone, Barr will bring 'integrity' back to DOJ GOP pollster says Dems are relitigating 2016 election with investigations of Trump Former senior FBI official calls Whitaker hearing ‘disgraceful’ MORE about it. I don't know Matt Whitaker," Trump told reporters at the White House before leaving for a trip to Paris.

Whitaker, who served as Sessions's chief of staff at the Justice Department, reportedly met with Trump roughly a dozen times in the Oval Office.

CNN also reported that McGahn was influential in getting Whitaker to become Session's chief of staff at the Justice Department.

McGahn departed his role as White House counsel last month after the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughGeorgia's heartbeat abortion bill is dangerous for women nationwide Senate votes to confirm Neomi Rao to appeals court Battle over Trump's judicial nominees enters new phase MORE.

Trump echoed his comments about Whitaker in tweets late Friday night, saying he had "no social contact" with him before his appointment this week.