Did Trump know this when he picked him to replace Jeff Sessions as attorney general?
President Trump recently appointed Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general.
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The New York Times dropped a major story on Tuesday evening: "President Trump told the White House counsel in the spring that he wanted to order the Justice Department to prosecute two of his political adversaries: his 2016 challenger, Hillary Clinton, and the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey." According to the Times, Donald McGahn II, the counsel, told Trump this would be an abuse of power and that Trump had no authority to launch such prosecutions. McGahn also had White House lawyers draft a memo for Trump warning that such a move could lead to impeachment.
McGahn, who recently left the White House, held the line against Trump's desire to weaponize the Justice Department. But there is someone in Trump's circle who has long been an advocate of prosecuting Clinton: Matt Whitaker, Trump's controversial pick to replace Jeff Sessions as acting attorney general.
In July 2016, after Comey announced that he would recommend no criminal charges be filed against Clinton for using a private email server as secretary of state, Whitaker -- a former US attorney now self-branded as a conservative legal watchdog -- noted during a radio interview that Clinton ought to have been prosecuted. And he raised the prospect of Clinton being charged by a next administration, assuming it was not hers: "The statute of limitations lasts beyond the election. So if there's a different administration, they may look at these set of facts differently and pursue charges." In another interview at that time, Whitaker said Clinton should have been prosecuted under the Espionage Act, and that it was necessary to charge her in order to preserve the rule of law.
Two months later, appearing on Fox Business Channel as a pundit, Whitaker indicated he believed that if Trump won, his administration should reboot the Clinton email case. Asked if there were any legal options left for prosecuting Clinton, Whitaker answered, "Unless you have a Trump administration that appoints a new attorney general and reopens this case, because there is a statute of limitations that is ticking but is not past. And I could imagine, in this world that we live in, that a Trump administration could open this case and re-look at these charges, however petty that might seem to some."