Bob Franken: To know him is to not know him

”I don’t know Matt Whitaker.” That was President Donald Trump, unmistakably signaling that Matthew Whitaker won’t be acting attorney general much longer. Never mind that just about a month ago, during one of his regular love fests on “Fox and Friends,” Trump was singing a different tune: “I can tell you Matt Whitaker’s a great guy. I mean, I know Matt Whitaker.” Now, all you haters out there might think that POTUS was just once again being a lying sack of spit. But those of us in the know understand that it was simply a mistake; he was talking about two different Matt Whitakers. That still begs the question: Why would he appoint someone he says he doesn’t know to be acting attorney general, the chief law enforcement official in the U. S. of A., with thousands upon thousands of attorneys and federal agents under his command? And why didn’t his vetters pick up on Whitaker’s long record of comments about the American legal system that make one wonder how he ever passed the bar, or even high-school civics? His public statements about jurisprudence range from ignorant to Neanderthal. Why didn’t his constant derogatory comments about the Robert Mueller investigation — questioning whether it should even exist — raise a red flag with someone in the administration? Oh wait, the cynics among us might consider the possibility that his appointment to a job that would give him control of how or even whether Mueller proceeds, that his stated contempt for the entire special counsel probe might be precisely why he was named by President Trump. And if you believe Trump’s response to reporters — “I didn’t speak to Matt Whitaker about it” — then I’d like to sell you some courses at Trump University.

Maybe that was part of Matt Whitaker’s personal appeal to the Trumpster. Among the other parts of Whitaker’s resume was his glaringly public association with a patent-advice scam that was widely accused of bilking thousands of dollars from inventors until it was shut down by a federal judge this year. He was a member of the operation’s advisory committee, and even sent intimidating letters threatening ominous legal action against those who complained. It truly does sound like a Trump University con, so Donald Trump not only knows Matt Whitaker, but they are total soul mates, just like the Donald and Vladimir Putin, or Kim Jong Un. There are just some people you meet and immediately establish a connection. There are those who argue that Trump’s appointment of Whitaker is unconstitutional or otherwise illegal. For what it’s worth, I’m not convinced by their arguments. Not that I’m a lawyer, but this is one of those rare cases where attorneys have laid out a simple case, that it violates the Constitution’s Appointments Clause because Whitaker wasn’t confirmed by the Senate. In fact, he was confirmed, 14 years ago, before he became a U.S. attorney in Iowa. They also contend that choosing him to be acting attorney general violated various laws and/or regulations. Unfortunately, there are conflicting laws and/or regulations, to say nothing about a Supreme Court that’s dominated by Trump sycophants. Still, Whitaker is probably toast. Trump demands loyalty, but he doesn’t reciprocate. Beyond that, for someone who acts like he’s impervious to embarrassment, in reality Donald Trump is incredibly frightened of ridicule, inordinately so. That helps explain his fury at “fake news” reporters who dare ask uncomfortable questions or put out unfavorable stories. The Matthew Whitaker story has quickly turned unfavorable. So Whitaker is not long for this swamp. Already, a quiet search is most certainly underway for someone equally unqualified to take his place and shameless enough to gut the Mueller investigation without fear, before there is a special counsel report accompanied by more indictments. How about Ryan Zinke, the interior secretary who is looking up at a major legal cloud? He’s already gone through Senate confirmation. The key will be whether President Trump will admit that he knows him.

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