In this April 24, 2014, file photo, then-Iowa Republican senatorial candidate and former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker watches before a live televised debate in Johnston, Iowa. 
Charlie Neibergall/AP Photo

Maybe the White House should’ve vetted Trump’s acting Attorney General

The Rachel Maddow Show, 11/13/18, 9:24 PM ET

Leadership of DOJ uncertain as Trump is challenged on Whitaker

Matt Axelrod, former DOJ official, talks with Rachel Maddow about the legal fights over Donald Trump’s installation of Matt Whitaker as acting-attorney general, including the state of Maryland asking a court to put Rod Rosenstein in that position instead.
Just when it seemed we couldn’t possibly learn of a new controversy surrounding acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, the Associated Press uncovered the latest in an amazing series.

While in private business, acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker walked away from a taxpayer-subsidized apartment-rehabilitation project in Iowa after years of cost overruns, delays and other problems, public records show.

The city of Des Moines ultimately yanked an affordable housing loan that Whitaker’s company had been awarded, and another lender began foreclosure proceedings after Whitaker defaulted on a separate loan for nearly $700,000. Several contractors complained they were not paid, and a process server for one could not even find Whitaker or his company to serve him with a lawsuit.

Well, sure, when you put it that way, it sounds bad.

Vox published a piece  yesterday summarizing Whitaker’s many controversies, and I was struck, not just by the seriousness of the allegations, but by the length of the piece itself. Ordinarily, before anyone could put together a lengthy list of controversies surrounding a Trump cabinet official, he or she would have to be in office for at least a couple of months.

Matt Whitaker is currently in his seventh day – and two of those days were a weekend.

At least in theory, this would ordinarily be the point at which the White House started pushing back aggressively against the acting AG’s many controversies, but that’s proving difficult – not just because of the scope of Whitaker’s alleged wrongdoing, but also because White House officials didn’t know these stories were coming.

For example, we learned the other day that Whitaker is tied directly to a fraud scheme that’s currently under FBI investigation. Soon after this came to public light, the Washington Post  reported, “Whitaker’s connection to World Patent Marketing came as a surprise to both senior Justice Department and White House officials.”

Similarly, last week, we learned of the acting attorney general’s frequent public condemnations of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, the substance of which Whitaker has already rejected. CNN reported soon after, “It was not widely known among White House staff that he’d commented repeatedly on the special counsel’s investigation in interviews and on television.”

In light of the latest revelations, Rachel asked on Twitter yesterday afternoon, “Did they vet him? At all?” By all appearances, the answer is no.

As for what’s next, Rachel spoke last night to Matt Axelrod, a former senior official at the Justice Department, who addressed the ethics advice Whitaker is poised to receive from within the DOJ.

Justice Department and White House

Maybe the White House should've vetted Trump's acting Attorney General