Acting AG is a former Hawkeye football player

Matthew Whitaker
Matthew Whitaker

Matthew Whitaker named By President to take over for Jeff Sessions.

Posted: Nov 7, 2018 4:55 PM

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — The man who will serve at least temporarily as the nation's top law enforcement official is a relatively inexperienced Republican Party loyalist from Iowa who has called for limiting special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

Matthew G. Whitaker, 49, will become the nation's acting attorney general following the forced resignation of Jeff Sessions. President Donald Trump announced the appointment Wednesday, saying on Twitter that Whitaker "will serve our Country well" and that a permanent attorney general will be nominated later.

The former federal prosecutor served as Sessions' chief of staff for one year.

The bulk of Whitaker's relevant experience came when he served as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Iowa from 2004 until 2009, a position for which he was recommended by Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, now chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. In that role, the telegenic former college football player managed attorneys who prosecuted federal crimes and represented the government in civil matters in half of Iowa.

Recent acting and permanent attorneys general have been longtime government lawyers or high-ranking politicians with more experience navigating Washington than Whitaker.

Critics worry that Whitaker may be unlikely or unwilling to defend the Department of Justice's independence against political interference by the White House, given his history of partisanship and loyalty to Trump. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Wednesday that Whitaker should recuse himself from overseeing the Mueller investigation given his previous public comments that appeared to exhibit hostility toward the inquiry.

During a brief stint last year as a conservative legal commentator on CNN, Whitaker often appeared as a Trump defender, saying he saw no evidence the president colluded with Russians during the 2016 campaign or obstructed justice. He wrote last year on CNN.com that Rosenstein should limit the scope of Mueller's investigation to stop him from delving into Trump's finances.

"If he doesn't, then Mueller's investigation will eventually start to look like a political fishing expedition. This would not only be out of character for a respected figure like Mueller, but also could be damaging to the President of the United States and his family — and by extension, to the country," he wrote.

He also said on CNN last year that he could see a scenario in which Sessions' replacement doesn't fire Mueller but "just reduces his budget to so low that his investigation grinds to almost a halt."

Asked whether Whitaker would assume control over Mueller's investigation, Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Flores said Whitaker would be "in charge of all matters under the purview of the Department of Justice." The agency did not announce a departure for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller and has closely overseen his work.

Des Moines attorney Guy Cook, a Democrat who has known Whitaker for years, called him a clear thinker and a "no-nonsense guy who is not to be underestimated."

"But I think most importantly, from the president's perspective, he's loyal," Cook said. He said that reasonable people can agree with Whitaker's perspective on the Mueller investigation, but "I'm sure that's something that got the president's attention."

Grassley said Whitaker "will work hard and make us proud," saying that the department would be in good hands during the transition.

Most of Whitaker's career has been spent in private practice, including at a Des Moines law firm he founded with other Republican Party activists in 2009. He has twice failed in bids for statewide elected office, most recently losing the 2014 GOP primary for the U.S. Senate to now-Sen. Joni Ernst.

After that campaign, Whitaker helped start and served for three years as executive director for the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, a self-described "ethics watchdog" that often targets Democratic officials and groups with misconduct investigations and complaints. He has said that Hillary Clinton should have been prosecuted for her email scandal as Secretary of State and that Trump made the right call in firing FBI Director James Comey. He earned $402,000 in 2016, the group's tax filing shows.

Whitaker has also cultivated close relationships with Republican leaders and activists during the Iowa caucuses, the first-in-the-nation presidential nominating contests that occur every four years. He served as state chairman during the 2012 election cycle for former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty's campaign. After Pawlenty's bid fizzled, he served in the 2012 and 2016 presidential campaigns of Rick Perry, the former Texas governor who is now energy secretary.

Whitaker grew up in the Des Moines suburb of Ankeny. He attended the University of Iowa on a football scholarship, playing tight end under the legendary coach Hayden Fry and catching a pass for the Hawkeyes in the 1991 Rose Bowl. He majored in communications studies as an undergraduate and was interested in broadcasting and film production. He later earned an MBA and a law degree from the school.

After starting his career in private practice, Whitaker first ran for office in 2002, losing a race for state treasurer to the longtime Democratic incumbent Michael Fitzgerald. President George W. Bush appointed him as the U.S. attorney based in Des Moines in 2004.

During his tenure, his office was accused of having political motivations in bringing an extortion charge against then-Democratic state Sen. Matt McCoy, which stemmed from a dispute McCoy had with a business partner. Whitaker denied that accusation, and McCoy was acquitted at a 2007 trial.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 755401

Reported Deaths: 8531
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1513291905
Ramsey62614972
Dakota56158520
Anoka53010513
Washington33145327
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St. Louis23178352
Scott21316159
Wright20879170
Olmsted17821118
Sherburne15232111
Carver1336954
Clay1006598
Rice9855131
Blue Earth949559
Crow Wing9254105
Kandiyohi819195
Chisago816662
Otter Tail7807104
Benton7363108
Beltrami633276
Mower631740
Douglas616189
Goodhue603683
Winona603653
Itasca596978
McLeod580868
Steele572425
Isanti558172
Morrison541565
Becker518762
Polk502577
Freeborn480842
Nobles477052
Lyon444456
Carlton438666
Nicollet423051
Pine419930
Cass413142
Mille Lacs403565
Brown398846
Todd389336
Le Sueur378331
Meeker350452
Waseca322629
Martin316534
Wabasha28495
Hubbard283644
Dodge26819
Roseau258924
Fillmore236312
Redwood234143
Wadena230229
Houston229017
Renville224249
Faribault214630
Pennington213227
Sibley204512
Cottonwood193027
Kanabec187130
Chippewa185839
Aitkin178442
Watonwan168711
Pope15328
Rock153219
Yellow Medicine151120
Jackson144114
Koochiching137219
Clearwater133318
Swift132619
Pipestone131627
Marshall131419
Murray131310
Stevens122311
Lake106221
Wilkin100214
Lac qui Parle95024
Mahnomen86312
Norman8459
Big Stone7874
Grant7669
Lincoln7525
Kittson59522
Red Lake5769
Unassigned528124
Traverse5005
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Cook2420

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 467281

Reported Deaths: 6685
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk73698716
Linn28680379
Scott24441271
Black Hawk20130355
Woodbury18854242
Johnson17800100
Dubuque15577228
Pottawattamie14073197
Dallas13894107
Story1275148
Warren763496
Webster6876111
Cerro Gordo6816107
Clinton6814100
Des Moines657893
Marshall635484
Muscatine6294113
Wapello5807136
Jasper571478
Lee560787
Sioux560276
Marion499791
Buena Vista489745
Plymouth459187
Henry378647
Jones365160
Washington362255
Bremer353867
Benton352056
Boone344837
Carroll341753
Crawford337345
Mahaska313656
Dickinson297651
Clay274631
Buchanan274239
Jackson270445
Kossuth269373
Hardin266448
Tama261476
Fayette253848
Delaware253444
Cedar246326
Page244827
Wright240945
Winneshiek230837
Hamilton228553
Floyd216744
Harrison215277
Madison214325
Clayton210058
Poweshiek206840
Iowa204229
Butler203237
Jefferson197340
Mills197227
Allamakee192952
Cherokee191943
Lyon190641
Cass190557
Winnebago185432
Hancock184739
Calhoun184115
Appanoose175950
Shelby174239
Louisa169651
Grundy167937
Emmet163842
Franklin163328
Humboldt161826
Mitchell161843
Union159437
Chickasaw156418
Sac156323
Guthrie154034
Palo Alto140831
Clarke140028
Montgomery138941
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Monroe131534
Howard125422
Ida116641
Davis113825
Greene113712
Lucas112224
Pocahontas109323
Monona107436
Worth10678
Adair103634
Osceola91117
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Van Buren82721
Decatur81212
Taylor78612
Wayne72024
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Adams4984
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