There has been some argument over whether President Trump violated the Vacancies Reform Act when he appointed Matt Whitaker acting attorney general, bypassing Senate-confirmed candidates and ignoring the Justice Department's statutory line of succession. But that's beside the point, argue prominent lawyers and Constitution defenders Neal Katyal and George Conway III in a New York Times op-ed published Thursday. Trump's installation of Whitaker "is unconstitutional," they argue. "It's illegal. And it means that anything Mr. Whitaker does, or tries to do, in that position is invalid."
The constitutional issue involves Article II, Section 2, Clause 2, known as the Appointments Clause. "Under that provision, so-called principal officers of the United States must be nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate under its 'Advice and Consent' powers," explain Katyal, an acting solicitor general under former President Barack Obama, and Conway, a prominent conservative lawyer most famous for being married to White House counselor Kellyanne Conway. "A principal officer must be confirmed by the Senate" and answers only to the president. They continue:
We cannot tolerate such an evasion of the Constitution's very explicit, textually precise design. Senate confirmation exists for a simple, and good, reason. Constitutionally, Matthew Whitaker is a nobody. ... Because Mr. Whitaker has not undergone the process of Senate confirmation, there has been no mechanism for scrutinizing whether he has the character and ability to evenhandedly enforce the law in a position of such grave responsibility. The public is entitled to that assurance, especially since Mr. Whitaker's only supervisor is Mr. Trump himself, and the president is hopelessly compromised by the Mueller investigation. That is why adherence to the requirements of the Appointments Clause is so important here, and always. [The New York Times]
On CNN, Jake Tapper's panel looked at the legal arguments but took special interest in Conway's role and the concurrence of Fox News pundits. Watch below, and read the entire op-ed at The New York Times. Peter Weber