Could Matthew Whitaker, the acting attorney general of the United States as of yesterday afternoon, be worse than Jeff Sessions? Taking his life and works end to end, Jeff Sessions might be the worst person in American politics—a barely veiled segregationist and neo-Confederate, who was too racist to be confirmed as a federal judge in the ’80s but made himself into an powerful part of the national political establishment nonetheless. If Donald Trump is pouring salt into the open wound of American bigotry, it has been Jeff Sessions’ life work to make sure the wound would stay open and raw till the time came. As attorney general, his main policy goal was ethnic cleansing, and he largely succeeded in advancing that cause.
And yet Matthew Whitaker is a worse person to have as attorney general in November 2018. Part of this is that he’s a two-for-one deal—he not only takes over for Sessions as attorney general, but since Sessions’ recusal from the Russia investigation goes away with Sessions, he also takes over for Rod Rosenstein as the person in charge of the investigations. Part of it, though, is contextual: Sessions was a scheming creep, with a long-term vision of evil; Whitaker is a dumb goon, whose job is to break stuff.
Reading his paper trail yesterday was alarming because there was nothing to it. His CNN opinion piece from 2017, arguing that Robert Mueller’s investigation was going too far, was an pile of assertions as empty as his tweet about how it’s nice to drink coffee in the mornings.
Can Mueller look into the president’s financial crimes, as they turn up in the course of the investigation? Of course not:
The President is absolutely correct. Mueller has come up to a red line in the Russia 2016 election-meddling investigation that he is dangerously close to crossing.
The president is not just correct; he is absolutely correct. Like Brett Kavanaugh, Whitaker is a dullard who has figured out that the way to the president’s heart is to be as mean and dumb as he is, and on the same terms. If Mueller’s investigation were to broaden, Whitaker wrote, it would be seen as a “a mere witch hunt” and “a political fishing expedition.” This was the sales pitch to Trump: an attorney general who wouldn’t even put in the effort to come up with an independent-sounding vocabulary. There is only one voice in the executive branch.