Acting U.S. Attorney General Matt Whitaker was in his home state of Iowa Wednesday giving a speech and meeting with local law enforcement. His trip comes as a U-S Justice Department memo says his appointment to replace former Attorney General Jeff Sessions is legal.
Whitaker was chief of staff to former Attorney General Sessions.
“You may have heard there’s been a change or two at the Department of Justice,” Whitaker said to a small private gathering of local law enforcement at the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa office. “One thing that has not changed is our unwavering support for local law enforcement.”
Democrats have challenged Whitaker’s appointment because he’s been critical of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference. The Department of Justice says Whitaker’s temporary appointment is legal but it does not address whether or not he must recuse himself from oversight of the Russia investigation.
The last time a person was appointed acting attorney general without being confirmed by the U.S. Senate was in 1866. Maryland has challenged Whitaker’s appointment. Whitaker’s past business dealings have also fallen under scrutiny.
Earlier in the morning, Whitaker spoke at a summit focused on prosecuting scammers who target the elderly. He told the crowd of prosecutors and investigators that American seniors will lose $3 trillion this year in some kind of fraud scheme.
Whitaker did not speak with reporters and did not mention the Russia investigation at either of his events. These were his first speeches in Iowa since President Trump appointed him last week to lead the U.S. Justice Department.